The moral decadence in our societies is on the ascendancy. This can be evaluated by the high rate of teenage pregnancy, both in our communities and in our basic schools; the high rate of sexual violence against women and girls in our homes resulting in unwanted pregnancies and the high rate of abortion related deaths most of which are not recorded as victims use unorthodox methods in their attempt to terminate these unwanted pregnancies.
All the above social challenges could be attributed to ignorance, illiteracy, poverty, all forms of abuse against women and girls, lack of parental control, broken marriages as well as the underdevelopment in our neglected rural communities where these issues are more prevalent.
Heartwarmingly, governmental institutions, international development organizations, UN agencies, Non- Governmental Organizations in collaboration with local Civil Society Organizations are making efforts to minimize or eliminate these challenges in order to bring sanity and meaningful development into our communities.
However my major concern to these attempts by the various government and non-governmental establishments is that they have all ignored or are pretending to be unaware of the alarming rate at which children (small girls and boys) between the ages of 5 - 12 years are being incorporated into the sex game in our communities, both urban and rural. Their attention is mainly focused on the sexual activities of adolescent girls within the 15-19 year group.
The purpose therefore of this essay is to bring to light the severity of the rate at which children, both male and female, are being engaged in sexual activities.
The fact that children, some of whom are in Kindergarten schools are having sex with their peers, or are being coerced into sexual acts by adolescents boys and girls, or are sexually assaulted by male adults, should be the concern of every member of the society.
Take note that Prof. Richard Adanu, the Dean of the School of Public Health of the University of Ghana, has revealed in his key note address during a workshop on "Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health" earlier this year that "one in five of all adolescent girls aged 15-19 years living in rural areas in the Brong- Ahafo, Central and Volta regions are either pregnant or already have children".
The Ghana Health Service also indicated that 750,000 teenagers between the ages of 15-19 became pregnant in 2014.
I bet to add that three out of every five adolescent girls (15-19 years) in the rural communities of the Volta region already have children.
The above statistics are enough proof of how sexually active our teenage boys and girls are. This had resulted in the precarious high rate of teenage pregnancy in the country as indicated by the research findings stated above.
Let me state emphatically that the high teenage pregnancy rate in the country is the direct outcome of the early ages at which girls are initiated into having sex. I have also found out that about 60% of girls aged twelve years in rural communities are already engaged in sexual activities.
Why is it that an average KG1 class of 35 girls and 30 boys reduces to 20 girls and 28 boys at Basic 6 (class six) and further reduces to 12 girls and 21 boys at Basic 9 (JHS 3)?
How did it happen that even a kindergarten boy aged 5 years could threaten his female classmate that if she is not careful he will have sex with her? Or two of these kids caught having sex in a nearby uncompleted structure?
These are the focal points of this exposition.
I have classified sexual activity involving children into three categories:
One: Sex with Peers: in this category small girls and boys of the same age group (5-9) years having sex, normally initiated by the male counterpart who already has fore knowledge about sex. Their hideouts are usually urinals, toilets, bathrooms and at the back or corners of buildings.
Two: Sex with Adolescents: Here small girls and boys (5-9) are cajoled into having sexual intercourse with adolescents (12-19yrs). The drama usually takes place in the sleeping rooms of the adolescents, in the toilet or in the bathrooms (depending on the maturity of the adolescent).
Three: Sex with Male Adults: in this class male adults of 35 years and above lure small girls into their rooms or hideouts and defile them. Under this circumstance, the small girls are trapped under the pretext of sending them on errands or offering them gifts. Some of these men are old enough to be the parents or the grandparents of the victims (small girls)!
There are several instances where adolescent boys 12- 19 years and men lure small girls into their rooms and have sex with them with impunity and go scot free.
The same goes for some teenage girls 12- 19 years who also take advantage of small boys as young as 4-6 years to have sex with them. More often than not, this happens with small boys they are fond of. They take them into their rooms or bathrooms, undress and fondle with their penis and have sex with them.
These amoral behaviours are happening on a daily basis in our homes and schools but they are neither reported to the law enforcement agencies nor even disclosed, due to several unjustifiable reasons.
A critical analysis of these cases revealed that the older partners in the first two categories of sex involving children, as mentioned above, have fore knowledge about sex. This previous knowledge could be acquired through several means but the following four sources are more relevant in the Ghanaian context. They are:
- Through a previous sexual experience
- Through sexual brainwashing by peers or older associates
- Through watching live sexual intercourse by parents, guardians or adolescent girls who sometimes visit their boy or man friends in the company of their siblings to avoid suspicion.
- Through watching pornography materials from magazines, or sexy video clips which are shared freely on the internet, on television and on other social media such as WhatsApp, Messenger, YouTube, and Imo.
Access to pornography material is the main source of exposure to sex for category two. It is the driving force behind the craze especially for adolescent girls to possess smart phones and they are ever ready to go the extra mile to acquire one. Over 80 % of Ghanaian youth within the age group of 14-30years own mobile phones. And 8 out of every 10 adolescent girls in Ghana have mobile phones regardless of their social status: rich or poor, literate or illiterate.
In the scenario evoked in the example of the class enrolment presented earlier, investigations revealed that 23 girls out of the 35 could not make it to JHS 3. Out of this number 12 became pregnant, 5 were married off by their parents or guardians, 5 dropped out of school due to poverty because there was nobody to cater for them, although they are not orphans and 2 were trafficked. The bottom line is that 50% dropped out of school due to teenage pregnancy. This implies that this number could have completed Junior High School if they had abstained from sex at that early age!
It is now evident that the engagement of girls in sexual activities is one the major causes of the reduction of girls enrolment in school as they move from one class to the other.
But how long shall we keep silent over this felony which majority of the populace consider as a mere misdemeanour?
We should not overlook the multiple health hazards that are associated with forceful sexual intercourse or rape, not to talk about the permanent psychological effects it will have on these small girls in their later lives.
I believe strongly that this social menace can be corrected if we change our mindset and attitudes in our interactions with our children especially the small girls. We should stop considering them as our "handbags" we use on a journey.
It is a high time we put our feet down to halt this barbaric act. Parents, adolescents and the youth must be educated on the negative health consequences early sex can have on these small girls and also the negative impact it will make on their education which will in turn jeopardized their future lives and that of future generations.
I wish therefore to make the following humble suggestions which I think if implemented, our small girls and boys will be saved the trauma and physical pain we inflict on them through engaging them in premature sex. These are:
- Parents, guardians, adolescents, youth and adults must be educated intensively on sexual health and reproductive health.
- They must also desist from having sex in the presence of their children above six months of age regardless of their gender.
- Parents, guardians and older siblings must monitor the movement of their children or younger siblings. They must be interested in their peers or people their children or siblings play or move around with.
- The "natural ban" on sex education in our communities must be "lifted" so that children and adolescents are thoroughly counseled on sex. After all what are we hiding from them? For they see sex in books, in songs, on television, on mobile phones and even in the Bible. The purpose of its seclusion has already been defeated. It is now time to give them an in-depth lecture on the implications of sexual intercourse. We should stop pretending as it is no longer a secret act or a sacred act.
- Adolescent boys and girls and male adults who engage small girls and boys in any sexual activity must be exposed and be made to face the full rigours of the law to serve as a deterrent to potential culprits especially the men.
- Heads of basic schools, both public and private, must entreat their teachers including the Kindergarten staff to be more vigilant and monitor the activities of their pupils more especially when they are on break or outside the classroom.
- The Ghana Education service in collaboration with other stakeholders such as the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Ministry of Health, the District Assemblies and Traditional Authorities must enact and strictly enforce laws or bye laws forbidding pupils to use mobile phones in schools. Patronage of the phone booths provided in schools must be enforced. The provision of these booths in the communities too must be given a second thought.
- These stakeholders in collaboration with civil society organization must entreat traditional authorities to censure minors from attending wake-keepings during funerals, vigils during festivals as well as all-night events organized by religious organizations, be it Christian or traditional faiths.
- Adolescent girls and boys must be introduced to more useful pastimes such as indoor and outdoor games, reading clubs, drama and debating clubs and other social group activities.
- Victims of this heinous crime should be supported by the state and philanthropic organizations to enable them "pick up" their lives for a better future.
- The Girl Child Education program must be vigorously pursued in every corner of the country.
To conclude I wish to implore every member in our communities to be interested in and to get involved in this crusade which we have termed LEAVE OUR SMALL GIRLS OUT OF SEX CAMPAIGN. This clarion call is very important because you may not know whether the next victim will be your own child or sister.
I appeal to donor organizations who share our views on the welfare of small girls and boys to support us financially to enable us implement this intensive advocacy project intended to educate the Ghanaian populace on child sex.
NB: There is a supporting five- minute video clip which will be shared strictly upon request with interested institutions or organizations.
WILLIAM KUDZO GATI
TEL: +233 24 448 3735/+233 20 376 0057
EMAIL: [email protected]
The author is an educationist who has taught in several public basic and secondary schools for the past twenty five years mostly in rural settings and is currently the headmaster of Dabala-Junction Comboni Basic School in the South Tongu district of the Volta Region of Ghana.
He is also the CEO of JS FUND FOR HOPE, a registered Ghanaian non-profit organization whose focus is on the welfare of neglected rural women and children especially girls.