Child Abuse: An Insidious Epidemic

Ghanaians woke to the horrifying news of a 26-year-old man who had been arrested for abusing his three-year-old son on Thursday, May 14, 2020.

The man, Ebenezer Osei Bonsu, physically assaulted his son, with a cable and a cane, thereby inflicting severe cuts on his back for destroying his mobile phone and wetting his bed.

The trauma of such news had barely been assuaged when another news item of the arrest of a father for allegedly maiming his 10-year-old son, hit us once again. In that case, 55-year-old Osmanu Mumuni cut off the son’s right ear with a razor blade and placed his fingers over an open flame for stealing his GH¢250 on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

This is the second time within a few weeks that we are compelled to discuss the rising child abuse in the country.

For us, abuse of any child detracts from the country’s reputation as the most democratic in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a blot on our religious and moral beliefs. Internationally, it does not make Ghana look good and takes the shine off our standing in the League of Nations. Although not an everyday occurrence, reports of harrowing abuse against children are becoming one too many.

Thus, the head of the Central Regional Office of the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU), Superintendent George Appiah-Sakyi, also on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, urged the scaling up of counselling services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. That, he said, was to deal with the negative psycho-social impact of the global outbreak, which included violence.

In fact, COVID-19, as someone puts it, is a leveller. Like death itself, it has snuffed out the life of some loved ones and is still prowling on us.

Apart from its direct impact of serious illness, affecting some organs of the body and the resultant deaths, there are wide ranging impacts, such as economic downturns, employment disruptions and social upheavals, because of the distances we have to keep from each other to stop the spread. Indeed, the Mental Health Authority (MHA) and others in the sector have warned of various psychological ills, as a result of the loss of jobs, businesses and social distancing directives in these times.

They have all asked that as stimulus packages are given out for economic and social recoveries, we also pay attention to our mental and psychological health.

Poor mental or psychological health in these times would result in challenges we cannot address with any stimuli. Some countries with the COVID-19 pandemic and the increases in spousal abuses have set up helplines for reports to be made about such violence.

What the country may be losing sight of is the abuse of children. Children are vulnerable and may not have the capacity for lodging formal complaints. Our culture does not help matters, as being predominantly paternalistic, the norm is for children to defer to adults.

A child dare not question a parent, go against his or her wishes or destroy anything of theirs. Doing that results in some of the abuses reported last week.

The Daily Graphic sides with Supt Appiah-Sakyi's call for counselling services to be scaled up for all during this period. Counselling is needed for all so people do not pass their frustration on to others through violence.

However, the Daily Graphic believes that the Judicial Service must put the abuse of children as topmost in the adjudication of cases. Most take too long to conclude and victims, most often, give up because the other parent may not have the resources, even transportation to attend court when the case is called.

The abuse of children must not be entertained among Ghanaians. It is barbaric and those who believe they have to discipline children to the point of injury must be dealt with by the courts.

Such people must be made to know in the law courts that in harming children, they cut short all their prospects in living and making it in any civil society.