Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin II, Okyehene, on Tuesday condemned polygamy, saying it was an abuse to women’s rights and environmentally unfriendly.
He noted that not only were polygamous marriages sources of emotional abuse to women but it also led to huge procreation by a man, which then contributed to population explosion and thereby put pressure on the environment and limited national resources.
The Okyehene made the unlikely remark by a traditional ruler of his calibre at the dual launch of Ghana@50 Documentary on Population and Development and a campaign by Miss Ghana@50, Frances Judith Takyi-Mensah to end Obstetric Fistula in Ghana in Accra.
The documentary, which captured the history of population growth in Ghana from 1957 till date, was put together by the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA). It would be shown on television stations across the country.
The Okyehene described his remark as the inconvenient truth, saying that he had dedicated the whole of 2007 to speak the inconvenient truth.
Osagyefo Ofori Panin noted that the claim that polygamy was a cultural rather than a moral issue was unfortunate, saying that even if the practice was cultural it could be changed since it did not auger well for women, the environment and national development.
“Let us not behave as if our culture is wired to our DNA and so we cannot change bad cultural practices,” he said.
He therefore, called on his colleague chiefs and some educated men of substance, who were known not to be practicing polygamy to put an end to it as their contribution to the fight against population explosion and its resultant low standard of living in the country.
Osagyefo Ofori Panin noted that the practice violated women’s rights over their sexuality, thus men tended to decide when, how women had sex and how many children they bore.
“We need to allow our women to be in charge of their sexuality and decide, when, how, with whom to have sex and how many children they want to bear,” he said.
Mr Makane Kane, Country Representative of UNFPA supported Okyehene’s call by saying that population was not just about counting people but rather making the citizens count by providing opportunities across board to enable citizens, no matter which part of the country they lived in, to realise their full potential.
He noted that even though Ghana’s current economic growth was about six per cent per annum, the 2.7 per cent population growth rate posed a danger to realisation of a middle-income level target that the country had envisaged in the next 10 years.
Mr Kane said the current population growth rate meant that each woman of childbearing age was giving birth to at least seven children.
He therefore reiterated the need to allow women to take charge of their own sexuality and thereby determine how many children they wanted to bore, saying that when that was done through education, women were likely to give birth to less number of children.
Professor Andrew F. Aryee of Population Impact Project (PIP), University of Ghana said currently there was as high as 40 per cent of unplanned births, 16 per cent unwanted children and 34 per cent unmet need for family planning in the country.
This, he said accounted for the phenomenon of streetism, high level of maternal and infant mortality and incidences of abandoned children.
He said 34 per cent of homes in Ghana were headed by women, who were single parents, adding that due to the generally lower earning power of women than men, the situation tended to impact negatively on society.
“Women’s lack of control over their sexuality is at the core of the problem of population explosion,” he said.
“There is the need to place family planning at the top of the agenda for fighting population explosion,” he said.
Prof. Aryee emphasised the need to educate girls to secondary level, saying that, with the level of education, women were likely to take informed decisions about their sexuality.
Nana Akomea, Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment urged producers of the population and development documentary to focus attention on the rural folk and urban poor in subsequent documentaries to ensure that such material painted the true picture.
He asked them to translate the documentary into local dialects to enable the uneducated rural dwellers, where the challenge of population explosion was most rife to comprehend the message therein.
Ms Takyi-Mensah pledged her commitment to raise funds through a fund she had set up to cure women suffering from obstetric fistula, a medical condition that made faeces and urine flow free from women without control.
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