The importance of understanding socio-cultural context of child sexual assaults in Ghana that affects the effectiveness of child sexual assaults prevention program.

A literature review that I previously wrote during summer 2013.

The importance of understanding socio-cultural context of child sexual assaults in Ghana that affects the effectiveness of child sexual assaults prevention program.

Child sexual abuse (CSA) has been a dire concern since research has found 14% of school children in Ghana have been sexually abused, while they were mostly around 14 to 15 years old(CRRECENT, 2009). However the prevalence of CSA could not be accurately determined due to its sensitive nature (Saewyc, Pettingell & Magee, 2003). To reduce the prevalence of CSA and promote disclosure, CRRECENT (2009) has addressed the urgency to implement a CSA prevention program in schools due to the lack of such initiatives in Ghana. This literature will explore the importance of understanding the socio-cultural context of child sexual assaults in Ghana and how it affects the effectiveness of child sexual assaults prevention program.

Laird (2002) points out the need of instituting localized professional guidelines in order to protect the children who are in danger of sexual assaults. Although Ghana has passed the Children’s Act since 1998 – which closely resembles the British’s 1989 Children’s Act, Laird argued that due to socio-economic impediments, the enforcement of such Act has been problematic if not politically ignored. Therefore, Laird implored social workers to shift their field of operation “from psychological to socio-economical” in order to effectively tackle the root causes of sexual assaults upon children in Ghanaian society. Most social workers do not have the adequate skill to deal with CSA in cultural contexts from Asia, Africa and South America as they are mostly trained to deal with CSA in western cultural paradigm, which are mainly white children (Kenny & McEachern, 2000; Futa et al., 2001, as cited in Gilligan & Akhtar, 2005).

The CSA prevention program should be incorporated into the local socio-cultural context when implemented in schools in order to achieve maximum effectiveness (Foluso & Asebiomo, 2012). Research has shown that most CSA prevention program in the US do not take cultural sensitivity into account (Noh Ahn & Gilbert, 1992). Most CSA prevention curricula adopts the empowerment model, which encourages child autonomy (Berrick & Gilbert, 1991). Meursing et al. (1995) argued that this model could somehow contradict the social norms in Ghana as young children are traditionally bound to obey the elderly’s instructions.

Gilligan and Akhtar (2005) assert the need to recognize and respect the unique culture and religion of individuals and communities to effectively handle CSA. Although Ghana is considered as a religious country; mainly Christianity (71.2%) and Islam (17.6%) (Ghana Statistical Service, 2012), traditional beliefs and religions are still intensely practiced and valued singularly, or incorporated into their main religion (Stoeltje, 2009). Most Ghanaian believes in the power of Antoa Nyamaa, a strong river deity in Ashante region, which is often used in cursing people (Obeng, 1996). Therefore, some might utilize the deity’s name to warn the children not to disclose their crime after they have been sexually assaulted them. Due to this cultural fact, the disclosure rate is low as the society regards CSA as taboo; often surrounded by a culture of silence and stigma which is avoided for discussion at all cost (CRRECENT, 2009).

Regrettably, academic literatures that discuss the utilization of culturally sensitive techniques in CSA prevention program are still limited (Millán & Rabiner, 1992). Therefore, Gilligan and Akhtar (2005) urged professionals to address child protection issues specific to certain social and cultural settings; to develop more culturally competent policy, procedures and responses to CSA. Contrarily, Daro (1994) has pointed out that it is “highly unlikely that a single prevention strategy” could successfully “address even one of Finkelhor’s four pre-conditions”.  Therefore, she suggested that CSA prevention education should not be limited to children but also involve parents, professionals and the community as a whole.

(599 words)


Berrick, J.D. & Gilbert, N. (1991). With the Best of Intentions: The Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Movement. New York: Guilford.

CRRECENT. (2009). Report on Child Sex Abuse in Schools. PLAN Ghana.

Foluso, A.F. & Asebiomo (2012). Sexual Abuse among Female Secondary Students and Social Cultural Issues that Hinder or Enhance Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Africa. IACSIT Press, 56.

Gilligan, P. & Akhtar, S.(2005).  Cultural Barriers to the Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse in Asian Communities: Listening to What Women Say. British Journal of Social Work, 36(8), 1361-1377.

Laird, S. (2002) The 1998 Children’s Act: Problems of Enforcement in Ghana. British Journal of Social Work, 32, 893–905.

Meursing, K., Vos, T., Coutinho, O., Moyo, M., Mpofu, S., Oneko, O., Mundy, V., Dube, S., Mahlangu, T., & Sibindi, F. (1995). Child sexual abuse in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. Social Sciences and Medicine, 41(12), 1693–1704.

Millán, F. & Rabiner, S. S. (1992). Toward a culturally sensitive child sexual abuse prevention program for latinos. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 1 (3-4), 311-320.

Noh Ahn, H. & Gilbert, N. (1992). Cultural Diversity and Sexual Abuse Prevention. Social Service Review, September. The University of Chicago.

Obeng J. P. (1996) Asante Catholicism: Religious and Cultural Reproduction Among the Akan of Ghana. Leiden : Brill.

Saewyc, E. M., Pettingell, S. and Lara L. Magee, L. L. (2003). The Prevalence of Sexual Abuse Among Adolescents in School. The Journal of School Nursing, 19, 266-268.

Stoeltje, B. J. (2009). Asante traditions and female self-assertion: Sister abena’s narrative. Research in African Literatures, 40(1), 27-41. Retrieved from


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s