Facts on Violence Against Women in Ghana (Part 1 of 2)

Gender Studies & Human Rights Documentation Centre

Facts on Violence Against Women in Ghana 

Table of Contents

Part One:

Profile of Physical Violence in Ghana
Profile of Psychological Violence in Ghana
Sexual Violence
Traditional Practices as Violence
Economic Forms of Violence

 Part Two:

Reasons Why Women Were Physically or Psychologically Abused
Why do women stay in abusive relationships?
Perpetrator Profiling
What are your options?
Risk Assessments
The Do’s and Don’ts of helping victims of abuse


In the last census of 2000, the population of Ghana stood at 18,412,247 with women forming 51 per cent of the total population of Ghana. Women in Ghana, like their sisters in other African countries, have multifaceted roles both at home and at work. In spite of the important role played by the women of Ghana in the socio-economic sector, their contribution to the economy and social life have largely been ignored.

Under Ghana’s constitution, both women and men have equal status under the law. Despite these constitutional and legal guarantees, women still play subservient roles to men. Under our customary systems, women are expected to give precedence to men in all things, with the men taking all decision affecting the family.

This position of being the subservient partner has created a situation where Ghanaian women are equated to children. In addition, women are often considered to be the property of their fathers and husbands. This control by men over women has meant that many women have accepted the situation allows men to “punish” them for alleged disobedience.

Violence is a threat to all women in our society. For too long it has been kept silent. Many believe that violence at home is a “family affair” and should be dealt with inside the home Too often we turn our heads when we know that a woman is being abused. That silence is as dangerous as the abuse itself. By ignoring violence, we are putting every woman we know at risk. Violence against women affects every woman from time they are infants until they are elderly. It affects our daughters. Our mothers, our sisters and our friends. Violence is a threat not only to women, but affects society as a whole.

This information package is to provide you with the details and facts about violence against women. Identifying the violence is the first step in ending it. The information enclosed is the result of a national study done by the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre and its partners. One of our goals is to help bring an end to the violence against women in Ghana.


Profile of Physical Violence in Ghana:

Physical violence was identified as any number of actions that are generally inflicted upon and/or of consequence to the body, resulting in injury or harm to the body. Some of these are:

  • Cruel punishment including starving children, punitive food rationing, inserting pepper and ginger into the genitals of children
  • Physical torture usually involving excessive cruelty
  • Forced labour where for example maidservants, orphans or stepchildren are forced to work long, hard hours, without pay and/or little time off
  • Beatings, ranging from slapping and punching, to kicking and burning
  • Assault with a weapon, such as stabbing
  • Causing death


Physical Violence 33%
  • 1 in 3 women were experiencing physical violence (beating, slapping or other physical punishment) at the hands of current or previous partners at the time of the study 
  • 33% had experienced physical violence in intimate relationships 
  • Over half (51%) experience physical violence in 1997 


Items used to beat, slap or physically punish women
  • 81% a hand was used to beat
  • 6% a belt was used 
  • 6% other objects were used (cane, pestle, bicycle tire, dog chains, etc…) 
  • 4% a stick was used 
  • 3% a combination of hand and other objects (belt, legs, stick) 


Impacts of Violence: 2 out of 3 women who experienced physical violence suffered injuries


Types of Injuries Suffered
  • 89% suffered bruises and body aches
  • 14% suffered open wounds
  • 5% suffered broken bones
  • 10% other injuries (including swollen eyes, blood from ears and swollen face)

For those that suffered injury or bodily pain the last time they were physically abused:

  • Over 1 in 3 (37%) stayed in bed after the beating
  • Just under 1 in 3 (30%) stayed in the house
  • Nearly 2 in 10 (18%) took days off income generating activities

Health Care Costs To The Family

Almost half (49%) of those injured sought treatment for their injuries:

  • 16% at a clinic
  • 36% at a hospital
  • 5% from a herbalist
  • 21% at a pharmacy
  • 21% through a drug peddler


Profile of Psychological Violence in Ghana:

In the Ghana study, psychological violence was identified as behaviour directed at an emotional level or that has an emotional impact. These include:

  • Threatening behaviour, such as verbal threats, bullying and destruction of property
  • Threats that a woman will be removed from the house that parents will stop paying a child’s school fees
  • Death threats
  • Disrespect for women such as the unilateral termination of relationship without consideration or proper maintenance of woman and children
  • When men take on girlfriends
  • Taking a second wife without consulting wife
  • Male partners refusing their wives sex
  • Refusing to eat a woman’s food
  • Verbal abuse, insults, curses, false accusations, shouting
  • Humiliating or shaming a woman in front of others
  • Isolating women by refusing to allow them to work, visit family and/or friends
  • Confining women to specific spaces, such as the home
  • Male partners spending time away from home
  • Refusing to talk or listen
  • Discrimination and favouritism between wives, biological and stepchildren and between men and women- “when male partners give things to one lot”
  • Infantilization of women’ values that relegate women to the background as inferior
  • When a wife cooks a meal for the day and the husband sleeps with another wife or a girlfriend


Sexual Violence:

There are many forms of sexual violence which include rape forced sexual intercourse in and out of marriage. Sexual violence takes place usually without the consent of the victim.

  • Rape or forced sexual intercourse in marriage and out of marriage
  • Women and young girls being touched or being forced to touch someone against their will defilement of young girls
  • Sexual harassment unwanted sexual comments, looks and touching
  • Women being forced to comply to sexual demands due to a threat that they will not do well in school or may not be promoted
  • Forced prostitution
  • Forced homosexuality
  • Sexual neglect
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Women’s lack of control over reproduction by their being denied family planning
  • Forced pregnancy
  • Man refusing to wear a condom to protect his wife when he has been sexually active elsewhere
Sexual Violence 27%
For 2 in 10 women, their firs experience of sexual intercourse was by force
2 in 5 women are harassed or coerced when they refuse their partner sex
3 in 10 women are forced by their male partner to have sex sometimes
1 in 5 women experienced forced sex by a man * 17% between 10-14 years
* 64% between 15-18 years
* 3% over 19 years
7% of women had been forced to touch a man’s private parts *3% below 10 years
* 40% between 10-14 years
* 53% between 15-18 years
* 3% above 19 years 
6% had been threatened by a school teacher or principal that schooling would suffer if they did not have sex * 30% between 10-14 years
* 66% between 15-18 years
* 4% over 19 years
4 % of women had been threatened with demands for sex before being offered a job or having a favour done * 12% below aged 15
* 50% between 15-18 years
* 26% over 19 years
15% of women surveyed had been circumcised * 51% below age 1
* 17% between 1-9 years
* 17% between 10-14 years
* 15% 15 or older



Traditional Practices as Violence:

These are practices that cause physical, emotional and sexual damage to women.

Traditional Violence can include the following:

  • Female genital mutilation
  • Tribal markings
  • Food taboo’s that dictate women should not eat certain foods at specific times or at all
  • Cultural attitudes that indicate an inferior status for women and children punitive elements of widowhood rights such as food rationing, cold water bathing and lengthy abstentions from sex
  • Bride price/dowry which encourage men to see women as property
  • Forced marriage or child marriage in which the girls consent is not given for the marriage
  • Adultery rites that publicly shame women for committing adultery but do not touch the man
  • Trokosi, the forced enslavement of young female virgins

“Women not being allowed to eat chicken, mangoes or eggs when pregnant, or not allowed to eat proper food for one or two days after giving birth. They prevent her from eating properly by claiming a child will turn into a thief if she eats well.”

“It can be considered a holy war when husbands die and the family of the man wants to take over the wealth and property of the man. The widow is not considered a member of the family and as such she should not have a share.”

“Where a man gives a dowry for the woman he thinks he owns the woman and whatever he says should be taken. If the woman says anything against the man [sic] she is beaten.”

“The least important man in the house still more important that the women because some believe that women were created from one rib of man. Women are not complete without men.”

Female Genital Mutilation in Ghana15% of women and girls are circumcised
85% circumcised before the age of 15
51% circumcised before the age of one


Economic Forms of Violence:

This form of violence is often described as deprivation of essential needs.

Economic violence can include:

  • Withholding resources as a form of punishment
  • Neglecting to provide money for food, school and the running of the household
  • Refusing to allow a woman to work
  • Taking a woman’s earnings from her and forcing woman to be dependent on the man
  • Men spending scarce resources on drink and girlfriends rather than on household needs

8% of younger or older women are prohibited from going to work, selling, or making money
Over 1 in 4 (27%) of women have been hurt by male partners refusing to provide money or food stuffs
56% said it was the sole decision of the man whether to buy or sell land
62% said buying household goods was the sole decision of men
42% said that husbands/partners had the final say in household decisions


See Facts on Violence Against Women (Part 2 of 2)   

Copyright © 1995 - 2018 Gender Studies & Human Right Documentation Centre, All Rights Reserved
Home  |  Events  |  FAQ  |  Contact Us