CHRAJ Commissioner, Joseph Whittal

The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has appealed to Parliament to expedite action on passing the Affirmative Action Bill into law.

According to the Commissioner of CHRAJ, Joseph Whittal, passing the Bill will help accelerate efforts by women who aspire to assume leadership roles in their various fields to aid the achievement of increased women participation in decision making.

Speaking at a stakeholder conference organised by the Commission to mark the International Women’s Day, he indicated that “once we can get the Affirmative Action Bill passed, a lot of advantages will come through.”

“Appointments that are currently being made by the Executive into ministerial, ambassadorial, public sector high-level appointments, appointment even at any level will now be dictated by the percentage that the President must appoint between women and men at any given time.

“40% is going to be the case. It’s not only 40% in the cabinet or in the ministerial executive; it has to be 40% of chief directors, 40% of directors in the Public and Civil Service and 40% in every Public Service. That is going to lead to a systemic change,” he said.

Joseph Whittal indicated that the Bill will cause a positive discrimination in favour of women who have suffered historical discrimination, adding that “violence against women should not be allowed to continue.

He noted that the Commission is currently embarking on its ‘Access to Justice Project,’ which is targeted at elderly women alleged to be witches in the northern regions of Ghana.

“We have just finished a baseline study which has been validated and is to be printed and we are going to go all out to educate people on it. What is so different about this baseline? The difference is that we talk about the attacks on witches and the fact that we should take them before the law court and the rest.

“But when you go to the law courts, all the Police and the Attorney-General’s Office can do is to prefer charges of assault; it is not about witchcraft practice, soothsaying and the attendant revelations that lead to the death of these people.

“So, instead of using the normal criminal offences under the Criminal Code, we have provided the body of evidence to convince Parliament and any other person who is interested in evidence-based decision making that there is a lot going on and then there is a need for a criminal amendment bill targeted at proscribing the practice of putting or identifying women as witches that leads to their death because they have to be beaten as a special offence which is currently being sponsored by three members of Parliament,” he stated.

Mr. Whittal recognised that ensuring equal opportunity for men and women in decision making would speed up development, adding that women have a lot of skills and potentials that could be tapped for nation-building and should, therefore, not be relegated to the bottom.

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