The Executive Director of The Ark Foundation Ghana, a women’s human rights NGO told Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Wednesday, Ghana should follow the ground-breaking example of Sweden where prostitution is seen as exploitation of women and sex workers, victims of society in need of social protection – not prisons.
She was weighing in on a police swoop last Sunday night on prostitutes in Cantoments, Accra resulting in the arrest and prosecution of 31 women and two men.
They have been convicted by an Accra magistrate court and fined GH¢720 each. They are supposed to sign a bond to be of good behaviour for six months. Failure to pay the fine, they would serve six months in prison in hard labour.
But according to the lawyer, this is not the way to go if Ghana is to rid the country of social scourge frowned upon by society and condemned by religion.
“Who is going to buy sex if you will be arrested for it?”, she said, recommending a Swedish option to dealing with prostitution.
In 1999, after years of research and study, Sweden passed legislation that criminalized the buying of sex, and decriminalized the selling of sex. The novel rationale behind this legislation is stated in the government’s literature on the law:
“In Sweden prostitution is regarded as an aspect of male violence against women and children. It is officially acknowledged as a form of exploitation of women and children and constitutes a significant social problem… gender equality will remain unattainable so long as men buy, sell and exploit women and children by prostituting them.”
In addition to the two pronged legal strategy, a third and essential element of Sweden’s prostitution legislation provides for ample and comprehensive social service funds aimed at helping any prostitute who wants to get out, and additional funds to educate the public.
In Ghana, prostitution is considered illegal. The Criminal Code defines the term “prostitution” to include: “… the offering by a person of his body commonly for acts of lewdness for payment although there is no act or offer of an act of ordinary sexual connexion.”
But according to Mrs Dwamena-Aboagye, proving prostitution is very difficult and few people have been convicted.
She said securing a conviction in court based on the mentality of most Ghanaians that a thinly clad lady standing by the streets is necessarily soliciting for sex is erroneous.
She said “it is fairly possible the judge convicted them without proof”.
Although she condemned the criminalization of prostitution, she also shot down any attempt to legalize the menace.
Legalising it is thought to have triggered dramatic increases in all facets of the sex industry such as organized crime, child prostitution and an increase in violence against women.
In view of Ghana having a Ministry of Gender and Social Protection, the gender advocate believes the current methods of dealing with prostitution were “archaic”.
In the absence of social protection, Ghana “is joking”, Angela pointed out.
Mrs. Dwamena-Aboagye operates the first shelter for battered women in Ghana and has also set up a Crisis Centre, a Legal Centre and a Counselling Centre for rendering sexual and gender based violence and child abuse services in different locations in the country.