In Ghana, women who survive rape have to pay 300-800 GHS ($52 to $139) to complete the medical form that’s needed to open a rape case. This, says actress Ama K. Abebrese, effectively stops women from seeking justice.
"If you can't afford it, it is almost like you are denied justice on the basis of money," Abebrese told the Independent. "If you don't get that medical report, essentially, the case to prosecute dies right there and then."
In July, Abebrese launched a petition calling on the government of Ghana to stand on the right side of justice, and remove the cost of the medical examination that victims of rape, sexual assault, and defilement are forced to pay.
"Nobody should have to go through the traumatic experience of the crime of rape and or sexual assault in the first place and the medical examination fees is a stumbling block in the pursuit of justice for victims, their families, and supporters," the petition says.
The petition has more than 14,000 signatures to date.
Survivors aren’t just prevented from reporting rape cases due to financial constraints. Rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence are criminalised in Ghana, but they continue to be underreported. Police also don’t have the resources they need to effectively investigate rape and sexual assuault cases, according to women's rights activists.
In some instances, community leaders even negotiate for rapists to pay compensation to victims' families instead of treating rape as a criminal act.
In a report about rape and sexual violence in Ghana, journalist Doreen Raheena Sulleyman said: "Sadly, Ghanaians tend to support rape myths and habitually blame the victim for the crime committed against her."
Sulleyman said this is rooted in the belief that victims should change their behaviour or how they dress.
She added: "An example is when a minister for Gender and Social Protection [Otiko Djaba] said girls attract rape when they wear short skirts, while addressing students at a speech and prize giving day in March 2017."
Djaba told schoolgirls: "If you wear a short dress, it's fashionable, but know that it can attract somebody who would want to rape or defile you. You must be responsible for the choices you make."
Still, Abebrese told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that she’s hopeful that that mentality could change if the government agrees to scrap the medical fees.
Abebrese speaking out comes after her meeting with Ghana's first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo and the gender minister Cynthia Morrison. A gender ministry spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they were "working on it."