By Bernice Bessey
“I had multiple sexual partners with the idea of getting more money to support myself and reduce the financial difficulties my family was experiencing. However, I am sometimes beaten by my partners after they have had sex with me, instead of giving me the money I requested for. Besides, I sometimes experience severe headaches and fatigue after the sexual affairs, but because I need the money, I still have to go through this pain.”
This chilling story of Ama has been told in different versions by many of her kind on the streets of Accra and elsewhere in Ghana. Studies conducted by International Needs, a non-governmental organisation based in Accra, have shown that many children have taken to child prostitution for survival.
Countless numbers of children have been spotted in and around Osu, La, Nima, Maamobi, Bubiashie, New Town, Mallam Atta, Lapaz and Madina, either plying the sex trade or are at high risk of sexual exploitation.
In Ghana, an estimated 54% of the population is below 18 years says the Ghana Statistical Service (2006), an indication that failure to critically attend to children’s basic needs could spell doom for the nation.
Many adults have taken undue advantage of poor and vulnerable children, and are exploiting them sexually. Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is one of the worst forms of child labour which in recent times has gained a lot of publicity because of its negative effect on its victims and the nation at large.
In a live radio discussion on Asempa FM Children’s programme, Mrs, Joyce Odame, Programmes Manager, Child’s Rights, noted that the study revealed that poverty, child neglect, broken homes, conflict, sex tourism, access to pornography on the internet, gender discrimination, and harmful traditions and customs have been the core factors contributing to the sexual exploitation of children in Ghana.
In five communities in Accra, International Needs identified 143 children in the first quarter of 2012, of which 129 children stood at risk and 14 were actual victims of sexual exploitation. Happily, all 143 children have been rescued from CSEC.
Mr. Cromwell Awadey, Head of Programmes at International Needs, said by the end project, 500 children in Accra would have been withdrawn and/or prevented from CSEC, rehabilitated and reintegrated into their families and society at large. He added that 200 families of victims of CSEC would be empowered economically.
Mary Magdalene Yartey, Senior Programmes Officer of IN-Ghana, advised parents to be more responsible to the total needs of their children.
The onus lies on the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs to be proactive in addressing children’s issues.