HRAC has traditionally had four main areas of focus, but as you will see from our current projects, our mission is to try to protect the human rights of all citizens of Ghana. In particular, those groups that are vulnerable or marginalised, such as women, female sex workers or the LGBT community. This page outlines our four main areas of focus, but for more information on all of our current projects, have a look at the pages in the menu section "Current Projects".
HRAC’s main focus areas have revolved around women’s rights, human rights advocacy, HIV/AIDS and access to justice.
Despite the fact that women make up 53% of Ghana’s population, according to the 2000 Housing and Population Census, men by far outweigh women in decision-making. Cultural perception and attitudes about women have been major hindrances to women’s role in public life. Major contributors to women’s low participation in national decision-making include lack of education and cultural perceptions about women’s roles in the society.
Other barriers which continue to plague women’s development include gender-based crimes, maternal mortality, harmful cultural practices (FGM, ‘trokosi’, widowhood rites) and intestate succession. The HRAC has undertaken capacity building and advocacy programs with partners and stakeholders in the legal and policy sectors to deepen the knowledge on women’s rights.
The HRAC has facilitated workshops for state institutions responsible for the protection of women rights, including the Ghana Police Service, to build their capacity on human rights standards and encourage them to adopt a human rights-based approach in the performance of their duties. Over the past twenty-one months, HRAC has established partnerships to reduce maternal mortality and the realisation of women’s sexual and reproductive health rights. It has facilitated seminars with students of the Ghana Law School, Pharmaceutical Students Association of Ghana and of University of Ghana to increase advocacy towards the creation of a legal and policy environment that protects and promotes women’s access to reproductive health services.
In 2005, Ghana is said to have missed out the gender parity target of 1:1 under the Millennium Development Goals. Among the factors that make a school environment unsafe for girls is ‘violence’ in and around schools. The HRAC, in partnership with the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC), has completed a Policy Mapping Study into Existing Legal and Policy frameworks that addresses Violence Against Girls in Schools. The findings illustrate that violence is major cause of girls’ inability to enroll and complete education. To reduce or eliminate the pandemic, the HRAC in collaboration with GNECC has drafted a gender policy framework for implementation by the Ministry of Education in Ghana to address violence against girls at all levels of education.
Human Rights Advocacy
Many have said that the protection of human rights is possibly Ghana’s ‘most spectacular success’ since the return of multiparty democracy in 1992. However, a great deal still needs to be done to improve and strengthen human rights, particularly those of vulnerable groups like women and children.
The HRAC has a wide scope in terms of human rights advocacy and monitoring. These include gender equality, children’s rights, police and prison reform, access to justice, civil and political rights, environmental and economic rights, health rights (mental health, sexual and reproductive health, Persons Living with HIV/AIDS) and refugees’ rights.
Ghana is signatory to various international laws that protect human rights and has a progressive Constitution and Acts of Parliament that promote and protect the human rights of the citizenry. Yet implementation of these laws has been a challenge, and a large proportion of the population (especially those in rural areas) continue to suffer from human rights violations including gender-based violence, child labour and child trafficking, harmful cultural practices, maternal mortality, police brutalities, discrimination and stigmatization of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation and lack of access to health facilities.HRAC’s advocacy programs have done much to address the aforementioned issues.
HIV/AIDS is one of the priority areas of the HRAC. The HRAC’s activities related to HIV/AIDS have focused on research into policy and legal frameworks that address the rights of PLHIVs and advocacy campaigns against stigmatisation and discriminatory practices. The HRAC recently completed a Legal Review and Assessment of HIV/AIDS related Laws in Ghana to determinehow they address the rights of the vulnerable population in Ghana for the UNAIDS country office.
The research sought to identify and assess the implementation of HIV/AIDS-related laws in compliance with international standards and implementation of international obligations for the protection of the rights of people living with HIV (PLHIV), most at-risk persons (MARPs), and other vulnerable populations in Ghana.The HRAC also developed a Q&A booklet on the rights of PLHIVs to inform them on their rights as guaranteed and provided for in the national legal framework as well in international law.
Recently, the HRAC organised and facilitated capacity building workshops for the Judicial Service, Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service (DOVVSU) and Ghana Prisons Service. The workshops aimed to:
- Promote a rights-based approach to dealing with MARPs; and
- Facilitate behavioral change among the police and prison services and judiciary as actors in the criminal justice system, particularly in their dealing with MARPs.
The HRAC developed a compendium of international, regional and national laws and policies regulating discrimination and stigmatisation of MARPs. The compendium compiled:
- Human rights legal provisions, policies and protocols related to stigmatisation and discrimination for the purpose of training police, prison and judicial officers; and
- Information on laws, policies and guidelines that determine the scope of operation, functions and powers of these institutions in the criminal justice systems.
Access to Justice
Nana and Fyfe with HRAC’s clients, 6 remand prisoners, on the day their bail application was approved (August, 2012)
Access to justice in Ghana continues to be hindered by a range of obstacles including religion, tradition and culture. There are many remand prisoners or suspected criminals who languish in police and prison custody for several years without trial. This has been compounded and worsened by deteriorating conditions in such centres.
Unfortunately, despite the laws in place to protect human rights, the disparity between legal theory and law in practice still poses a major challenge. Access to justice is hindered by various practical challenges, including geographical imbalance of the courts and lawyers, long delays in proceedings, high costs, lack of awareness and corruption. In part, these shortcomings have eroded public confidence in the justice delivery system, culminating in incidents of mob action in some communities.