VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, correction of Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 14th March, 2018.
[No correction was made to the Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 14 th March, 2018.]
Hon Members, correction of the Official Report of Wednesday, 28th February, 2018. Any corrections therein?
Yes, Hon Okudzeto Ablakwa?
Mr Speaker, I tried to catch your attention earlier on the correction of the Official Report.
I am very grateful, Mr Speaker.
And the difficulty is?
Mr Speaker, in column 1759, paragraph 3, the word “arranged” has been used. “The boy has been found and arranged before court.” “Arranged” had been used instead of “arraigned”. So, I seek to draw attention for that to be corrected. In column 1760, the third paragraph “…every community, at least…” not “…at lease…” as in lease of land. So, those are the corrections for 28th February, 2018. Mr Speaker, if you would permit me, the corrections for the Official Report of 1st March, 2018, on column 1820 --
Shall we finish with one please. The Official Report of 28th February, 2018 as corrected is hereby adopted as true record of proceedings. Hon Member, you may proceed with the Official Report of 1st March, 2018.
I am very grateful, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, the Official Report of 1st March, 2018, paragraph 1 of column 1821, “Getfund”. I drew your attention yesterday, but it has been repeated. The acronym “Getfund” is spelt “GETFund” -- the Ghana Education Trust Fund. Mr Speaker, in column 1824, “Council for Technical Vocational Education and Training”. “Tr4ining” ought to be corrected and “Microfinance kand Small Loans Centre (MASLOC)” also has to be corrected accordingly to read “Macro- finance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC)”
The Official Report of 1st March, 2018, as corrected is hereby adopted as the true record of proceedings. Hon Member for North Dayi, you may please proceed with your Statement.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to make a Statement on the issue of teenage pregnancy in the North Dayi Constituency in particular, and Ghana in general. Mr Speaker, all around us, in almost every constituency, we see a growing number of teenage girls getting pregnant and having to prematurely assume the role and responsibility of adults. Mr Speaker, many factors account for teenage pregnancy -- adolescent exube- rance, exploitation of sexuality of the teenager, lack of parental control or parental guidance, drug abuse, peer pressure, absence of sex education or in worse, lack of it, et cetera. Mr Speaker, in Ghana, teenage pregnancy is a major cause of maternal mortality, as the bodies of most teenage girls are not well developed and matured to accommodate a baby. Teenage pregnancy also results in most affected girls dropping out of school, becoming unskilled and unfit for the labour market, even as they prepare to become mothers. This double jeopardy of being an unskilled teenager with a responsibility of taking care of the baby is what demands that some immediate, relevant, national policy is crafted to halt the worrying trend of teenage pregnancy in North Dayi and beyond. Mr Speaker, sex education in our basic schools must be prioritised and taught. Parents must know and ought to be interested in the extra-curricular activities of their children, especially the teenage ones. We must begin, as a country, to teach safer sex practices among the youth instead of assuming that our children are ignorant of sex as an act and sexuality as a topic. Condom use must be mentioned while preaching the abstinence we desire as parents and teachers. The effort required to address this social problem of huge significance can only be effective if it is multi-faceted. The approach to solving this problem must acknowledge the role of parents, teachers, community leaders, chiefs and queen mothers, religious leaders as well as politicians, myself and every Member of Parliament included. Mr Speaker, Ghana has over 60 per cent of its population below 35 years. This feature of the population should, ordinarily, be an asset for Ghana but unfortunately, the huge unemployment situation among the youth has made the statistic a curse rather than a blessing. If our young teenage girls find themselves getting pregnant in addition to their unemployed state, the social problem created culminates into a crisis with the potential to threaten social cohesion and stability of the State. This is how serious the teenage pregnancy phenomenon is getting. Mr Speaker, as we discuss innovative ways to prevent our youth, particularly teenage girls from getting pregnant, we must concurrently find ways of integrating pregnant girls into our schools when they deliver the babies they carry. Every effort to get girls back to school after delivery is as important as the effort made at preventing the pregnancy in the first place. The pregnant teenager is not the problem, the problem is the factors that lead to the pregnancy. That is why we must focus our energies on addressing those factors rather than isolating pregnant teenagers for condemnation. Mr Speaker, I commend you for your long held position as an advocate for gender equality and a voice for the female sex. Thank you for doing what you do always, allowing women to speak to critical matters such as teenage pregnancy. I am most grateful, Mr Speaker.
Thank you very much, Hon Member for this ably made Statement.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute and I also want to thank the Hon Member who made the Statement. Mr Speaker, teenage pregnancy, as we all know, has its foundation in our moral society. Mr Speaker, it is unfortunate that we parents do not take care of the upbringing of our children, especially the girl-child. Most girl-children are left vulnerable to the society, especially to men who take advantage of them. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who made the Statement mentioned that stakeholders such as teachers, parents and society for that matter should begin to consider and look after our young girls. Indeed, in the olden days, and as we all know in our society, which is a communal one, the entire community looks after girl-children. This is because we noticed that they are vulnerable to men, who unfortunately, desire to have unwanted sexual activity with them. Mr Speaker, teachers have a role to play as well as parents. Why do I say teachers? We heard recently in some of our senior high schools where teachers took advantage of vulnerable young ladies as a result of, maybe, the girls coming from poor homes and not having money to pay their fees or take care of their needs, and teachers therefore, take advantage of those girl-children. Mr Speaker, teachers have major roles to play as well as parents. Why do I say teachers? When a girl-child leaves her home, she goes to school and stays there for sometime before going back to the house. The teachers have interaction with them, and most often than not, when teachers realise that young girls are developing and coming with all the features, they begin to lust after them. That has to do with their moral upbringing, as I mentioned in the beginning. Mr Speaker, society also has some role to play. Politicians have roles to play. As we go back to our constituencies, where we would be on recess, we need to educate our people that sexual intercourse between adults and teenage girls especially, has health implications. Mr Speaker, if a child is not grown and gets pregnant, the development of that child is stunted. This is because the child may be infected with venereal disease; the child may acquire other diseases; the child's womb might not develop to the extent of carrying a baby. So, it has health implications, and that health implication has economic implication because, that child would have to give birth to another baby and that baby would depend on the economy. So, it has a rippling effect on the economy. Mr Speaker, therefore, we should not see teenage pregnancy or sexual abuse, especially of teenage girls, as just a mere thing. It should become a national agenda that all of us would carry, to make sure that we reduce it if we cannot eliminate it completely. The society, government and all of us have roles to play. Let us make sure we educate our young girls at home and our cousins who are growing up about their health and their adolescent age. When they are growing, sometimes their emotions and system tell them to do a lot of things. We need to educate and explain to them that as they grow and look beautiful, they should not let the men deceive them, because as for men, they would tell them all kinds of stories. After the men have their way, unfortunately, the girls get pregnant and they are dumped somewhere and that becomes another societal problem for us. Therefore, let us carry this crusade back to our backyard and our constituency and educate our young girls, mothers and cousins, that their problem of getting pregnant and giving birth to a baby does not end with them. It ends with the entire society, so it has societal effect.
Thank you very much, Hon Member, for this contribution.
Hon Member, do not allow them to intimidate you. [Laughter.] 10. 55 a. m.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to —
Now it is the system which is trying to intimidate you. [Inaudible]-- please, you can use another microphone.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the Statement made by our Hon Colleague. I, first of all, want to thank our Hon Colleague for coming up with such a Statement. Mr Speaker, I think it is about time we all admitted that teenage pregnancy is a problem in this nation. But before we do so, it is very important that we outline the causes of teenage pregnancy, if not, if we come here as politicians and Hon Members to discuss the issue without addressing the causes of teenage pregnancy, then, our total work done would be zero. Mr Speaker, first of all, in my opinion, I think teenage pregnancy mostly results from poverty. You would realise that many homes where the parents can easily afford the needs of their girl-child, you would hardly find their teenage girls getting pregnant.
Statistically, especially those of us who come from the rural areas and poor communities, you would realise that teenage pregnancy is very high, and it is all because parents cannot afford to take care of their children. It is even important to know that some parents do not know where their girls go to even after school. Therefore, I think the onus would be on the government to come out with a policy where we could give special attention in terms of scholarships to help the girls to stay in school. It is very important. In United States of America, for instance, they have a programme for girls who attend college and offer courses such as mathematics, science, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). It is a way of encouraging girls to get involved in such difficult subjects. So, most girls who are able to take those difficult subjects are given scholarships. In the same way, as a nation, I think we could do so by giving special preference to girls who go to school. By so doing, it would reduce the burden on the parents. Mr Speaker, again, as a Member of Parliament and coming from a rural constituency, my experience is that most girls get pregnant from homes where parents are very irresponsible. We have to speak the truth once and for all, without sugar-coating our statements. Most parents are very irresponsible in the sense that, Mr Speaker, we would wake up in the morning and see women lined up in your home with their kids to receive school fees. As they come for this assistance, when you ask them where their husbands are, knowing very well that the age of those children, simply tells you that the women are married -- they plan it with their husbands. Their husbands stay at home while the women come to you for assistance. When you ask, ‘where is your husband', she would respond, “my husband is dead; since I had the child, I have not seen him'. When you investigate further or probe into the statement made by most of the women who come to us for assistance, you would realise that they have husbands or boyfriends, with whom they had those kids. So, I think we also have to educate parents to be responsible, especially the men. We make the babies and we continue to do so, but we do not look back. We behave like Albert Camus. Mr Speaker, on a more serious note, we would also have to encourage teachers. We cannot blame teachers. Let us ask ourselves the number of hours the students or girls stay with their teachers in school. The only thing we could do is to have a curriculum, which would educate young girls to take their destinies into their own hands. They should let them know the world they would face. When you are in school, your parents would take care of you. Maybe, government would do the same and friends too, but when you leave school, that is what we call the school of life. You are going to encounter a lot of challenges. So, I think we cannot blame teachers, but rather encourage teachers to educate our girls on how teenage pregnancy would affect their future. If we begin to blame teachers instead of blaming parents, I think we would miss the bar. The only thing we could do for teachers, is to encourage them to also educate the girls during the few hours they spend with them in school. In that case, they would be able to teach them the realities of life after school. Mr Speaker, again, we cannot also neglect our religion. Religion is also affecting us, and I would blame both religion and tradition because they go hand in hand. Our tradition and religion in this country also encourage that. In some tribes, which I would not be able to mention because it may not augur well -- frankly speaking, a girl of about thirteen years, who is unfortunate to come from a particular tribe -- I use the word, ‘unfortunate' because when you look at their beliefs, and listen to why they have given a thirteen-year-old girl to a man to marry, and if the girl decides to say no, she is seen as an outcast -- Some of them run away from their villages to Accra, Kumasi and other big cities and they become vulnerable. Mr Speaker, so, I think we should be able to address our traditions too. As Members of Parliament, we should not mince words but be straight with our leaders back home. The religious leaders and the traditional leaders should also get involved to help bring up our young girls. If not, we would come here and continuously talk about girl-child pregnancy, and so on, but it would be of no use. Therefore, I would support the Statement made by our Hon Colleague and address both the remote causes and the immediate causes. If we are able to tackle both the remote and the immediate causes, I believe we would not be able to eliminate it entirely, but we could reduce it. With these few words, I support the Statement made by our Hon Colleague.
Thank you very much. Yes, Hon Member for Adaklu?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity given me to contribute to the Statement ably made by my Hon Colleague. Mr Speaker, this Statement resonates with many of us, especially those of us from the rural communities. I also agree with the previous commentaries that we need to look at this problem from a multiple angle. Mr Speaker, culturally, in this country, it is not acceptable for a young person to challenge the conduct of an elderly person. For instance, if an elderly person asks a teenage girl of about 13 years of age to come to his room and do something for him, I am sure the girl would think that is what she should do, So, she would oblige and go to the room and whatever happens in the room becomes another issue.
Thank you very much for this able contribution.
Would you speak for the Leadership bench?
Mr Speaker, I am rising in my capacity as an Hon Member of Parliament.
If you would speak for the Leadership bench, I would come to you.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement. Mr Speaker, teenage pregnancy has become a problem in our country today, and all of us must work to ensure that if it not eradicated, it is reduced drastically. Mr Speaker, I believe that it is as a result of breakdown of societal and traditional values. In the olden days, woe betides a young girl who got pregnant before she went through the puberty rites. Both the parents and the girl would be punished severely. However, today, what do we see? As a result of Christianity, we do not respect our traditional values any longer. So, whether one gets pregnant at the age of 13, 14 or 15 years, the queen mother in the community who had the responsibility to ensure that young girls were trained in their traditional culture to understand the essence of going through the puberty rites is ignored. Mr Speaker, another factor is divorce, which brings about single parenting. Last year, I read somewhere that the rate at which Ghanaians are divorcing, either their wives or husbands is alarming. It is all due to economic pressures that we are going through. When there is a divorce today, the girl-child either lives with the mother or the father. In most cases, the girl-child lives with the mother.
On a point of order.
Hon Member, it is a general statement. Hon Member, you may continue.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. I would ignore him — [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, and so, we should look at that issue too. As has been said earlier, we also have some men who are so irresponsible to the extent that they would give birth to children and would not care about how they are brought up. They do not care about what they would eat, where they would sleep and the clothes that they would wear. They do not care. I believe there should be laws in this country such that one cannot give birth to a child and refuse to take care of him or her in this case, because that is also contributing to teenage pregnancy in this country. Mr Speaker, as was said by Hon Ken Ohene Agyapong, economic hardships and unemployment are also causing teenage pregnancies in this country. For instance, because both mother and father are not working, when they give birth to a child, the child is left at the mercy of the community and she becomes so vulnerable. Because of poverty, she is in school all right, but she sees her friends go to school neatly dressed, but even common chalewote, she does not have it. She is compelled under such circumstances to give in to any irresponsible man who would make a proposal to her. I believe that we should try and develop the country, such that employment would be guaranteed to most parents for them to take care of their children. In the villages, before a person can invite a young girl to a room, the person would have to go and stand at some corner somewhere and send somebody to call her for you. But today, one can just stay in the room and do whatever he or she wants to do with the phone. And people, and for that matter, young girls try to practise what they see on the social media. Mr Speaker, my advice is that social media, although is good, we should however, not emulate the vices that are associated with social media. Parents who are fortunate to be employed, for instance, the mother goes to work and comes home around 9.00 p.m, and the father also comes home around 10.00 p.m. and by the time they come back, their children would be fast asleep and they would not bother to go and check whether the 13 year old girl is asleep in the house or has gone to some place -- Because by the time the parents come home, they are already tired. Mr Speaker, I believe we have a major problem in this country, and if we want to address teenage pregnancy in this country, then there is the need for a holistic approach — all of us; our religious leaders, traditional authorities and political leaders must all work together so that we can bring teenage pregnancy under control. Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity. Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to the Statement made by my Hon Colleague on teenage pregnancy. Mr Speaker, I believe it is about time we talked about this issue. When we go to our various communities, we see children, some between the ages of 13 and 17 years, around 3.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. after school, walking by the roadside to go to their communities. It takes some of them two to three hours to get to where they are going. For instance, they would meet some elderly man on a motorbike who would ask of where one of the young girls is going, and she would, for instance, say she is going home. He would then offer her a ride and he would take her home. When they get home, the parents too are happy because they were not there — They had gone to their farms. The parent, for instance, would ask of how she got home, and she would respond, “somebody gave me a ride”. The next day, she would say, the same person gave me a ride. Before the parent would realise, her daughter is pregnant. That is when the parent would end up asking who the man who has been bringing her home all the time is. It would, however, be too late at that time. Mr Speaker, I believe we have to introduce condoms — [Interruption] — Yes. It is very important because as Christians, we are sometimes naïve about certain things. We go to churches and talk about so many things but forget about one thing, and that is about our girls.
How are we going to talk to them? One would talk to a girl and she would not understand because a friend is doing it and she would also want to do it. If we can introduce these condoms to schools and then teach them -- most of the kids, if one asks her why she even has a boyfriend, she would say she has a boyfriend because the boyfriend of her friend bought a mobile phone for her and that is why she also has a boyfriend. Mr Speaker, I know the truth hurts but that is the fact. We have to tell them the truth. I would beg the opinion leaders and the churches, because I am a Christian. We go to church and they preach about salvation, et cetera, but this too is very important. Mr Speaker, I went to my constituency some time back on a visit. I went to one community around 6.00 a.m. and there was this child. They were pushing me, saying, “Oh! Obaapa, this is your child” and I asked what was wrong with her. At 17 years, she gave birth at 2.00 a.m. and when I got there at 6.00 a.m. in the morning, they were bringing the girl to me. I asked what was wrong with her and she said, she has a child. I asked who the father was, and she said she was a kayayoo in Kumasi and she got pregnant, so, they brought her back to the village. Mr Speaker, even where the child was, is a place that a vehicle cannot even go. As early as 6.00 a.m. they had given her some boiled yam and grinded pepper. It is so sad. Mr Speaker, I would beg Hon Members of this Honourable House, that we should go to our communities and talk to them because women are suffering. I agree with Hon Ahi that -- people take divorce as a normal thing but divorce brings up all these issues.
Mr Speaker, it can happen to anybody. [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, in conclusion, I believe our leaders, especially the women leaders -- our former First Lady, Mrs Lordina Mahama, was doing the same thing, going round talking to them. So, I ask the First Lady and the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection to take note of this, so that we can go round and educate our girls so that they would know the implications of teenage pregnancy. Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.
Hon Member, thank you for this well-meant contribution. Hon Afenyo-Markin?
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to add my voice to the issue on the floor of the House. Mr Speaker, my respected Colleague just raised the issue of sex education in our schools and I agree with him. My view is that, under the guise of religion, we shy away from educating our girls on issues of sex, but that is wrong. Mr Speaker is a very mature person but he went through that period of adolescence, and I am sure as a Reverend Minister, he has had the occasion to counsel people. Mr Speaker, I am sure that one of the key things in counselling is to make things open and make the facts bare. But we do not find this in our schools and churches. Maybe, because we want people to abstain, we pretend they do not have to know; no, that is wrong. They must know. Our girls must know. These days, because of the types of foods they eat, around age 10 or 11, they go through that transition. Mr Speaker, I do not want to express my own fears -- I have some of them at home and suddenly they are growing very fast and the transition has been too fast, but that is the trend. We must educate them and let them know that they must not have sex and that these are the consequences. Mr Speaker, however, we must equally tell them that if they want to do it, they should protect themselves. They should insist and let the man use condom. I say this because, the position of the law is that when a girl is under the age of 16 and one has sex with her, it is a form of strict liability. Consent is not a material ingredient; all that is supposed to be established is whether you had sex with her. So, that is the first protection under the Sexual Offenses Act; we have protected our girls. But when the girl crosses that age and she is 18 years, she is ready to be married and can be given out for marriage. So, we should properly situate the argument on teenage pregnancy. Mr Speaker, at that point, if the girl has not been raped and she consented to sex, what can you do as a parent? We need to educate them because they need to understand. In our schools, I know we have Religious and Moral Education as part of the subjects taught, but how well are they being taught? To the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, what policy is the Ministry rolling out to ensure that the girl-child gets this understanding of issues of sex? Mr Speaker, our girls are our future, there is no doubt about that. Dr James Emmanuel Kwegyir Aggrey said; “If you educate a man you, educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation”. So, if we do not protect and secure their future, there would be nothing for us as a country. Mr Speaker, but we as politicians, stakeholders and opinion leaders whose voices go far must make it a daily duty to let people, especially men, to understand that it is not right to go after 16, 17, 18 year old girls. They may look tempting, but if one goes on that tangent, that person would be destroying the nation. Therefore, let us all encourage girl-child education. Mr Speaker, we have seen pretty young girls up there in the gallery, they all would want to have a future. They must begin to see prominent people as their role models. They must begin to aspire for higher laurels; they must begin to see that their
What is it? Say it! Say it!
Mr Speaker, until the rotten tooth is pulled out, the mouth must chew with caution. I will decline their invitation. How can I say this? All that I am saying is that they know that as a young man in secondary school, when you wake up at dawn, unless there is something wrong with you, there could be that temptation. [Laughter.] And I know those who attended mixed school had more troubling times. Mr Speaker, it is important that at that stage, you are told to take your time. We were told -- I was in a Catholic school and our teachers themselves were Reverend Fathers. As they themselves by celibacy were not supposed to engage in that, they made us understand that our time would come. Mr Speaker, if they become adults and become successful, even when they are not too successful, it would be there for them. Why must they rush for it? That is what our girls must be told. That they should educate themselves; go through secondary school or vocational training, get to the university, polytechnic, midwifery school, college of education, get a skill and get knowledge. There would be value addition as these girls would have added value to themselves. But if at this stage, our girls anxiously go for it, they would become “born-ones” and their physiological development may not be complete and they may become a burden on society. Yes, we have to be open; within that period of ovulation, if they do it, they would get pregnant. They should not have sex. If they want to have sex, they should use a condom; we cannot stop them. Mr Speaker, if they know they are 18 years and above, and they cannot be good christians or good muslims, and they would want to have sex -- ultimately, abstinence is the best but many of them cannot abstain; they cannot so they must use condom. In so doing- Mr Avedzi —- rose --
Mr Speaker, is he on a point of order? I want to yield to him if he has a point of order.
Having drawn my attention to him being on his feet, I am obliged to ask -—
Mr Speaker, I do not want him to complain. He said that somebody is a worse speaker and I want him to commend me today.
Hon Deputy Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I think the point the Hon Member is making is a very good one but he has made a statement which I think will not be good for us and I want to draw his attention to it. Mr Speaker, I want him to correct that one and to completely tell them not to do it.
Mr Speaker, I do not belong to the idealist class; I am a realist. I am educating the younger ones, that if they want to do it, they should do it in their safe periods and I say it without mincing words. We cannot stop them neither must we pretend that we can stop them. In so saying, it is not to undermine our religious values; that is the reality. So, if they want to have sex, they should have sex during their safe periods or use condom, if they are not sure. That is what they must be told and that is proper sex education, not the “kwaanii kwaanii” to wit, to pretend and not tell them the truth.
Mr Speaker, the challenge of what he is saying is that --
Do you rise on a point of correction?
Mr Speaker, yes. He started by quoting the law. The law that tells you that if you are below age 16, one cannot engage in carnal knowledge. [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, yes, he said 16 years and he quoted the law. So, if he says that and still goes ahead to say that if that 16 year old has an urge, she can go in for it, is a contradiction. I just want to draw our attention to the fact that we are telling our young people to abstain until they can do it legally and even, when they are doing it legally, they should make sure to protect themselves. It is important. So, those at ages 13, 15, 16 should not do it. They are all over and it is important for us to bring this to the notice of our young people and be emphatic about it. Mr Speaker, Parliament says that in order to avoid teenage pregnancy, our young girls should not exercise the urge in them to do it.
Thank you very much, Hon Member. Hon (Dr) Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings?
Mr Speaker, I would like to commend the Hon Member who made the Statement for a very good contribution regarding the issue of teenage pregnancy. I also commend Hon Members who have contributed to the Statement, in that we have all given various aspects of it, including the fact that we cannot deny the fact that it is a sexual offence to actually engage in sexual intercourse with
Hon Minority Leadership?
Mr Speaker, I rise in support of the Statement ably made by my Hon Colleague from the North Dayi constituency. This is a very important Statement. There is a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called Child Rights International and their lamentation is that we have been talking, but we are not acting; the action is very limited. Mr Speaker, I want us to take this opportunity to see what we can do even within the remits of our laws to for once, take some concrete steps to help save our girls.
Hon Majority Chief Whip?
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Statement made by our Hon Colleague for North Dayi Constituency. I join my Hon Colleagues to appreciate her and say that the Statement is well- thought-out. All of us cannot run away from the fact that teenage pregnancy is real and that we need a collective effort as a nation to reduce it, if it cannot be totally eliminated.
Thank you very much Hon Members, for your very rich contributions to this very important matter. In fact, it is referred to the Committee on Gender and Children to look at this matter very holistically, including some of the obvious contradictions such as the age of marrying vis-a-vis the age of consent generally.
This is because, as we all know, a person under 16 years cannot give consent. Any agreement by any such person is null and void. In fact, even if that person should invite you, you have still committed a crime by accepting such an invitation to treat. I think it is a very important responsibility of Parliament to also seize the opportunity, and be seen to be protecting our people by catching the initiative. I suggest that the Committee should take this very seriously and report during the fourth week after recess. Please, do us the favour of reporting with a very thorough analysis, and if necessary, we shall take the initiative to initiate legislation in this regard. Some of these areas may include the orders of maintenance. In the advanced countries, a man cannot just get lost by making a young girl pregnant. Men like that should not be allowed to vanish -- [Laughter.] They must be found and made to face their responsibilities. In some countries, the law has also been strengthened in many ways. For example, if one is a medical doctor, a nurse or a police officer and any matter whatsoever such as defilement comes up before one, one would be deemed to have committed a criminal offence if one does not report the matter to the appropriate authority. So, there is no dwane tua in this matter -- Going to beg behind the scenes. This is because if the doctor is found out, he or she would be jailed. We do not protect our people by these laws, which today are universal in the civilised world. We ignore them. So please, you may want to find out about some of these laws and adopt them, so that the incidence of cover- ups would become less. This is because, anybody who covers up would be deemed to have committed a felony and that person could go to jail. Not many people would want to do that and these are very important issues. As for those areas that offend the fundamental human rights, in Chapter 5, article 12(2) of the 1992 Constitution for example, it is most unfortunate. Discriminating against the girl-child by reason of her being a female is clearly provided against. Therefore, if a girl becomes pregnant, you cannot send her out of school. Whether it is a religious school or whatever, it is her right to be in school. I have practically experienced this before, and I took on the Ghana Education Service. They said it was a policy. What kind of policy is it when our Constitution says otherwise? Those ladies in the training colleges where it happened were allowed to sit their examination. We may still want to examine the parameters of these matters as the Parliament of Ghana, then go ahead and strengthen the rules, and abolish those illegal so-called regulations and ensure that our girls are protected. It is a very important duty and I trust that one month after recess, you would come with a strong report, from which we shall also recommend, and in fact, proceed to have rules, regulations and laws. The next Statement stands in the name of Hon Samuel O. Ablakwa on immigration issues. While he presents that, the Hon First Deputy Speaker would take the Chair.
MR FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER
May I express my profound appreciation to you, the Rt Hon Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye, for the opportunity to make this all important Statement. Mr Speaker, this Statement seeks to draw attention to the “Right of Abode” as stipulated by the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573).
“Subject to this section, the Minister may on an application and with the approval of the President grant the status of right of abode to any of the following persons: a ) a Ghanaian by birth, adoption, registration or naturalisation, within the meaning of the Citizenship Act who by reason of his acquisition of a foreign nationality has lost his Ghanaian citizenship; and b) a person of African descent in the Diaspora.'' Mr Speaker, the objective of this particular Statement is to focus attention on section 17 (1) (b) thus: “A person of African descent in the Diaspora.” By so doing, I hope to generate the much needed awareness and hopefully trigger action from relevant authorities.
“A person of African descent in the Diaspora qualifies to be considered for the status of a right of abode if he satisfies the Minister that he: a) is of good character as attested to by two Ghanaians who are notaries public, lawyers, senior public officers or other class of persons approved of by the Minister; b) has not been convicted of any criminal offence and been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of twelve months or more; c) is of independent means; d) is in the opinion of the Minister capable of making a substantial contribution to the development of Ghana; and e) has attained the age of eighteen years.'' Section 18 then provides under subsection (1): “A person with indefinite residence status or a person with right of abode status is -- a) entitled to remain indefinitely in Ghana; b) entitled to enter Ghana without a visa; c) entitled to work in Ghana either as self employed or as an employee without a work permit; and d) subject to the laws of Ghana. Mr Speaker, the Right of Abode provisions of the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573) can be contextualised as a piece
of legislation that recognises the African history and reality. It is a stark reminder of the three centuries of unconscionable separation and horrendous assault on African civilisation since the 16th Century trans-Atlantic slave trade all the way to the 1884 scramble for Africa in Berlin. The Right of Abode provisions can therefore be seen as a bold and commendable Pan-African approach towards reuniting Africa beyond a rather narrow continental unity. Mr Speaker, it is therefore my contention that the Right of Abode provisions contained in our Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573) over the last near two decades have rather sadly not been given the needed oxygen and impetus. The beauty of the Right of Abode provision is that it was passed by the Parliament of no other country but Ghana, a country celebrated for its sterling historical Pan-African credentials. This is the country famed for hosting that iconic American till his passing at age 96 in 1963; that undaunted life-long fighter for the emancipation of colonial and oppressed people, that man who helped establish the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, that Secretary of the first and second Pan- African Congresses held in 1900 and 1919 in London and Paris respectively, before chairing the 1945 edition in Manchester which provided the spark for African liberation from the shackles of colonialism --1 speak of Dr William Edward Burghardt Du Bois -- the man George Padmore described as the greatest scholar the black race has ever produced. Of course, we cannot forget that great West Indian himself -- George Padmore, who Kwame Nkrumah described as the Missionary and one of the greatest architects of the African Liberation Movement who was his ever-present compass. Beyond immortalizing these two with the George Padmore Library and the Du Bois Centre here in Accra, Ghana has many years thereafter played host to an army of African liberation fighters and courageous Pan Africanists of the purest kind. It is this tradition, I believe the Right of Abode provisions demand of us to continue, by keeping the African revolutionary torch aflame. The challenges confronting the present generation of Africans may be unique in their own rights, however, it cannot be in doubt that a concerted effort of the kind that delivered victories over slavery, oppression, subjugation and colonialism is needed today in equal measure to defeat contemporary forces such as neo- colonialism, racism, exploitation, unfair trade and poverty, which are militating against our progress. Mr Speaker, quite obviously, the threat to the full realisation of the Right of Abode provisions is lack of awareness and lack of a conscious deliberate effort to utilise this tool to reconnect with Africans in the Diaspora whose roots remain in Africa. It is time to adopt an aggressive international publicity of this provision in our laws. All our diplomatic missions abroad should be tasked to lead the charge. Back home, the Ministers of the Interior, Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and Tourism, Arts and Culture, ought to be requested by the President to draw up concrete programmes towards the full realisation of this objective, and Parliament should be apprised regularly of how many persons of African descent in the Diaspora have been granted the Right of Abode Status. Mr Speaker, I believe that at a time our President is projecting a Ghana Beyond Aid -- a campaign that strongly promotes Ghana's Right of Abode legislation will be most timely in attracting many successful persons of African descent in the Diaspora to look to Ghana as their true home, where they can invest, exchange ideas and create successful partnerships. This will then be taking the hitherto useful PANAFEST effort to the next level. Mr Speaker, I could not be making this Statement in a more opportune era -- as I speak, a Pan-African movie, Black Panther, which passed the US$ 1 billion mark just 26 days after its release -- by all standards a fantastic movie which breaks away from the stereotype and portrays Africa in deserving light. Indeed, Mr Speaker, Ghana and Ashanti received special acknowledgement in this movie. I can imagine that it would be very fascinating news, which I believe would be hailed and well-received among people of African descent all over the world, if our Government is minded to announce Ghana's willingness to offer Right of Abode Status to the Black Panther cast and crew who are of African descent in recognition of the honour done Ghana and the African people. The inestimable benefits to our nation will be unimaginable even as it affords us the opportunity to leverage on this outstanding movie production to market our Right of Abode and allow for the Black Star of Africa to take its rightful place in the hearts of Africans everywhere. Finally, Mr Speaker, I do hope that as politicians, this Statement will change our outlook towards the Diaspora. There is more to the Diaspora than Representation of the People's Amendment Act (ROPAA). In other words, there is more to the Diaspora than adding to our votes tally. There is a lot more we can achieve for the collective good of the African people across continents. It is my prayer that the Diaspora Policy which is currently being formulated will reflect this truism and it is my wish that soon and very soon, Ghana will return to the accounts of its glorious past of that amazing ancient Empire of Ghana, as first told by the 11th Century Arab geographer, Al-Bakri. I remain exceedingly grateful, Mr Speaker.
I would allow one contribution by the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and then if the Leaders would want to contribute. We have spent a lot more of the time on Statements. Yes, Hon Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs?
Mr Speaker, I am grateful for your kindness. Mr Speaker, I thank the Hon Member who made the Statement, the Hon Ranking Member, for the consciousness he is creating. Mr Speaker, let me begin by admitting that Ghana is respected in the sub-region. We have been described as the first country to have ratified a number of very relevant and important protocols and treaties, and the Right of Abode is critical among them. Ghana overly -- we have said that it is the first country in sub-Sahara to gain Independence, we have blazed the trail in
I intend to take just the Leadership.
Yes, the Leadership for the Minority have ceded to the Hon Member for Wa Central. Please, it is past 12.00 noon. I am supposed to go and chair another programme at 1.00 o'clock and we still have Public Business. So, let us do this as snappy as possible. Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would want to thank my Hon Leader for allowing me to replace him. Mr Speaker, I am very happy to contribute to this Statement which highlights the Right of Abode as provided under the Immigration Act, 2000. Mr Speaker, it appears that the Act reflects the true nature and concept of what we see about ourselves in the Africa region. At the beginning, the leader who
Very well, that is the end of the Statement. At the Commencement of Public Business -- Presentation of Papers, Hon Minister for Lands and Natural Resources. Item numbered 4 (a).
Mr Speaker, item numbered 4 (a) (i)(ii).
Item numbered 4 (a) (i)(ii) --- Hon Minister.
Let me refer the Paper before you talk.
Mr Speaker, before you refer it, I believe there is a mistake here because this should come from the Ministry of Finance because it is a tax concession agreement. So, I do not understand why the Hon Minister for Lands and Natural Resources should lay this Paper.
This is an agreement on mineral resources. So, it should appropriately come from the Hon Minister in charge of that. Referred to the Committees on Mines and Energy and Finance.
Hon Member for New Juaben South?
Mr Speaker, earlier, I was on my feet but it seems I did not catch your eye.
You have caught my eye. Let me hear you.
When you invited the Hon Minister for Lands and Natural Resources to lay the Paper, I thought that he would have bowed but he nodded. [Laughter.]
I saw that he bowed. [Laughter.] Very well -- By the Chairman of the Committee -- Report of the Finance Committee on the Ghana Deposit Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
Mr Speaker, my information is that the Committee has not even met on this issue. So, I do not understand how a Report could be laid by the Hon Chairman of the Committee while the Committee has not met.
Mr Speaker --
Let him finish, then I will recognise you.
Who is feeding you with that information?
Please. Hon Deputy Minority Leader, have you finished?
Mr Speaker, I have finished but if I could repeat. My indication is that the Committee has not met on this Deposit Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2018, but the Hon Chairman has laid the Report. I believe the Hon Members of the Committee can explain better but that is the information I got.
Now, you have raised your objection as a Leader. Hon Chairman of the Committee, it has been alleged that you could not have had the Report laid because you have not met.
Mr Speaker, if the Hon Deputy Minority Leader could tell us who has alleged that the Committee has not met. This is the Committee's Report. The Committee met over the weekend and considered this with the Bank of Ghana. So I do not know --
Mr Speaker, is he the one who alleged that the Committee has not met over the Bill?
Mr Speaker, it is true that the Committee met over the weekend and we did the clause by clause consideration of the Bill but we have not seen the Report. The Hon Ranking Member is not here. So, the Hon Chairman should have, at least, discussed the Report with Committee Members so that we make inputs. He cannot just say that the Report is ready. This is because yesterday, it was advertised but he said the Report was not ready. We came today, I have been with him but he never mentioned this to me and he says the Report is ready. It can never be ready since we have not made input into it.
Hon Members, this matter has been raised and discussed here often. When a Committee finishes its discussion, it is the responsibility of the Hon Chairman and the Clerk to the Committee to present the Report. Is that not the case? [Interruption.] If you see the Report and there is anything in it and you disagree with it, you are entitled to draw their attention. If they do not make the correction, you can bring it to the floor. The Report has now been laid. It would be distributed. So, please, let us move on. Hon Member, are you --
Mr Speaker, you are right that after the Committee has met, it is the duty of the Hon Chairman to produce the Report, and it is usually done by the Hon Chairman and the Clerk to the Committee but the convention that we have practised over the years is that the Hon Ranking Member who represents the other side is usually also informed for inputs into the Report. Over the eight years that I have been the Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee, the Hon Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation was always given a draft copy of my Report. He made input into it, we sat down together and finalised it. So, that is something that should be encouraged. We should not have a system where the Hon Chairman alone would want to do it without the input of the other side. It does not augur well for us as a House. So, that convention should be practised.
Where is the Hon Ranking Member of the Committee?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Ranking Member is —
Hon Member, I have not recognised you. Hon Deputy Minority Leader, where is the Hon Ranking Member?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Ranking Member asked permission to be absent today; but that does not preclude the Chairman from informing him and giving him a copy of the draft to make an input.
Hon Chairman, why did you not let the Hon Ranking Member see the Report?
Mr Speaker, changing the goal post would not help anyone. First, he alleged that the Committee had not even met. When his attention was drawn to the fact that we met over the weekend, now, he comes back to say that the Hon Ranking Member has not seen the Report. In any event, the Hon Ranking Member is not here. Yesterday, I sat with the Hon Ranking Member and we went over the Report. We generated this one, and he is fine with the Report. That is why I am laying it. As a matter of fact, yesterday, the --
Has the Hon Ranking Member seen the Report?
Yes, he has seen the Report.
The matter is over. Yes, Hon Majority Chief Whip, item number?
Item numbered 7; it is the Third Reading of the Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Accounts Information Bill, 2017.
Very well, item number 7 -- Motion -- Hon Minister for Finance?
BILLS -- THIRD READING
Hon Majority Chief Whip?
Mr Speaker, the next item we have is the Taxation (Use of Fiscal Electronic Device) Bill, 2017, which is going through some winnowing. So, in view of that, I would move that you adjourn the House to tomorrow at 10.00 o'clock in the forenoon for us to come and continue the Business.
Yes, Hon Deputy Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I beg to second the Motion.
Very well. Question put and Motion agreed to.