Fast facts

Total population: 34.7 million

Internet penetration rate: 68 %

State bodies tasked with tackling GBV:Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection | Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service | Ghana Police Service | Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) | Domestic Violence Secretariat | Legal Aid Commission Ghana | Cybersecurity Authority | Ministry of Environment Science, Technology and Innovation

GBV laws and policies in Ghana


The Constitution enshrines the right to equality and non-discrimination. Notably, the equality provision (section 17), protects against discrimination on limited grounds beings: gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, creed, or social or economic status. Further provisions of the constitution protect women’s rights, children’s rights, and the rights of persons with disabilities.

Lauded as a significant milestone in Ghana’s human rights promotion, this Act offers crucial protection and support for victims of domestic violence. This legislation provides for victims and survivors of domestic violence, predominantly women, to seek protection orders to safeguard themselves from the harmful actions and behaviours of offenders, thereby addressing a pervasive issue that has inflicted immense suffering and pain on its victims.

A key component of the Domestic Violence Act is the creation of the Domestic Violence Fund, which receives government allocations. This fund aims to furnish essential resources to aid agencies engaged in combating  GBV. The Act is currently under review by the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection.

Although it does not explicitly address GBV, this statute contains provisions related to offenses like rape, defilement, and indecent assault. It categorises certain behaviours as criminal offenses and specifies the corresponding penalties. Regarding statutory rape/defilement, Section 101(1) of Act 29 defines defilement as sexual intercourse, whether natural or unnatural, with a child under the age of 16. Section 101(2) stipulates that anyone who engages in sexual intercourse with a person under 16, regardless of consent, shall face imprisonment upon summary conviction for a term ranging from 7 to 25 years.

This Bill aims to foster gender equality and enhance the empowerment of women across multiple domains, encompassing fields such as politics and decision-making roles. Through its provisions, this legislation seeks to indirectly tackle certain root causes of GBV by confronting systemic gender disparities. However, though the draft AA Bill was first approved by Cabinet in 2016 and CSOs have called for its enactment, it has faced significant procedural delays which have impeded its finalization in Parliament.


This comprehensive plan is designed to combat and eradicate child marriage throughout the country. It was developed by the Ghanaian government, under the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MoGCSP), in collaboration with UNFPA and UNICEF and its partners. It delineates strategies, interventions, and objectives aimed at preventing child marriage, safeguarding vulnerable children, and facilitating access to education, healthcare, and other vital services for married girls. The framework emphasises multi-stakeholder collaboration, engaging government agencies, civil society organisations, religious and traditional leaders, and communities to collectively work towards ending child marriage and fostering a supportive environment for young girls in Ghana.


While not directly related to GBV, the commission, through the Cybersecurity Act, has provided safety tips and protection guides to the public. Although indirect, these resources touch on aspects of online GBV, contributing to efforts aimed at addressing this issue over time. These efforts often prioritise educating and raising awareness among individuals who may be impacted by OGBV, rather than directly tackling the underlying causes and perpetrators of such violence.

The Ghana Cyber Security Authority, (CSA), a government agency operating under the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation, holds the responsibility to regulate various cybersecurity activities within the country. This includes regulating cybersecurity activities, preventing and managing cybersecurity threats and incidents, and overseeing owners of Critical Information Infrastructure regarding cybersecurity matters. Moreover, the CSA is tasked with promoting the development of cybersecurity to ensure a secure and resilient digital ecosystem.

  • Criminal Code of 1960 (Act 29)

The Criminal Code does not explicitly address online offences, but includes provisions on intimidation, threats of violence, stalking, and harassment, which could potentially be applied to prosecute perpetrators of such offenses where they occur online. However, it is important to acknowledge the shortcomings of these mechanisms in effectively combating OGBV. For instance, there may be challenges in investigating and prosecuting online offenses due to jurisdictional issues, lack of specialised training among law enforcement officials, and gaps in legal frameworks that specifically address the unique dynamics of online abuse.

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GBV trends and resources in Ghana

According to a 2022 UN Women report, one in four Ghanaian women have endured physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner. Studies indicate that approximately 30% of Ghanaian women encounter sexual violence at least once in their lives. GBV and violence against women (VAW) pose significant challenges, often in the form of domestic violence, intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual assault, and harmful traditional practices like child marriage, harmful widowhood rituals, witchcraft allegations and lynching, and female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C). Despite some legal reform and widespread awareness campaigns, as elsewhere, issues relating to underreporting and cultural barriers remain.

In Ghana, socio-economic elements such as poverty, unemployment, unequal power structures, and cultural traditions are seen as drivers of GBV. Factors like financial dependency, limited educational opportunities, and ingrained patriarchal beliefs further heighten the risk of violence.

LGBTQIA+ rights are constrained due to laws criminalising same-sex relationships. In February 2024, Ghana’s parliament passed the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, restricting LGBTQIA+ rights, drawing criticism from rights activists. If enacted, the Bill would impose harsh penalties on members of the queer community as well as LGBTQIA+ rights activists. However, its enactment hinges on presidential validation. Currently, the Bill awaits formal submission to President Akufo-Addo, triggering a seven-day window for his approval or rejection. However, its transmission is stalled due to a legal challenge in the Supreme Court. Pending the court’s decision, all further action on the Bill is on hold.

Public opinion on the Bill has been divided. While it has been welcomed by some traditional and religious communities, it has raised alarm bells among human rights activists. For example, Human Rights Watch have described the bill as “draconian” and has called on the President to veto it as it violates the rights to equality and non-discrimination, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly. It has broader economic implications too. In March 2024, it was reported that the Bill may potentially impact Ghana’s multilateral financing with the IMF and World Bank.

Despite Ghana’s relatively high internet penetration rate, there is presently no specific national legislation or policy to address online Gender-Based Violence (OGBV). Instead, interventions are often integrated into broader policies addressing online safety. These measures typically highlight the risks associated with online activity and emphasise the need for users to exercise caution to avoid falling victim to abuse.

Over the years, incidents of GBV have sparked various prominent public protests, including:

  • In 2019, a large group took to the streets of Accra to protest the prevailing impunity for attacks targeting women and girls in the nation. The demonstration aimed, in part, to highlight the case of four young women who were abducted and murdered in the Western Region of Ghana. There had been widespread criticism of the police’s perceived mishandling of the investigation.
  • In 2021, youth activists led by the Youth Fellows of UNFPA Ghana (YoLe) organised a series of events to raise awareness of violence against women and children, including a solemn procession from the UNFPA offices to the Danquah Circle in Osu, Accra-Ghana, followed by a night vigil.

In 2020, a 90-year-old woman named Akua Denteh was brutally lynched in the Savana region of Ghana, following witchcraft allegations. This tragic incident prompted widespread condemnation and a unified effort among stakeholders to address such atrocities. Subsequently, two women received 12-year jail terms for their role in her killing. This event galvanised civil society organisations and interest groups to collaborate with the government in drafting the Anti-Witchcraft Bill. Passed by Parliament in July 2023, this legislation awaits the President’s assent and aims to protect victims of unfounded witchcraft accusations in Ghana.

Ghana faces numerous forms of GBV, disproportionately affecting women and children. Among the prevalent forms of GBV reported at various support centres are physical assault and abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, economic abuse, psychological abuse, school-based violence, and harmful practices such as child marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM).

The Demographic and Health Survey Report (DHS Report 2022) found that 33% of women in Ghana aged between 15 and 49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, and 61% of women who have ever had a husband or intimate partner reported experiencing at least one specific type of controlling behaviour from their current or most recent partner. Additionally, 36% of these women reported experiencing emotional, physical, or sexual violence from their current or most recent partner, with 28% experiencing such violence in the past year.

The report further notes that the percentage of ever-married women experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional violence from their current or most recent partner decreased slightly from 40% in 2008 to 36% in 2022. However, among ever-married or partnered women who experienced intimate partner physical or sexual violence in the 12 months preceding the survey, 32% sustained an injury. Despite these distressing statistics, only 38% of women who reported experiencing physical or sexual violence said they sought help to stop the violence.

While there is a slight decrease in the percentage of women experiencing physical violence since age 15, from 37% in 2008 to 33% in 2022, the prevalence of GBV remains a pressing issue in Ghana. These figures underscore the urgent need for comprehensive interventions and support systems to address GBV effectively and protect the rights and well-being of all individuals, particularly women and children, across the country.

The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) reported that 35.2% of women surveyed had experienced emotional violence at least once, with 22.7% having experienced physical violence and 11.2% having experienced sexual violence at least once. Additionally, the survey found that more than one in every ten (12.2%) women aged between 15 and 49 reported experiencing physical violence often or sometimes in the 12 months preceding the survey, and 6.8% experienced physical violence while pregnant. Furthermore, the survey revealed that 14.1% of women in this age group had experienced sexual violence.

Despite the existence of several laws prohibiting FGM/C, the practice persisted as a serious concern for girls under the age of 18 in certain regions. According to the 2017-2018 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS),  women residing in rural areas were subjected to FGM at a rate three times higher than those in urban areas (3.6% compared to 1.2 percent). Particularly alarming was the significantly higher prevalence of FGM/C in the Upper East Region.

The Ministry for Gender, Children, and Social Protection affirmed their dedication to collaborating with various stakeholders to eradicate witchcraft accusations in Ghana and to facilitate the resettlement of victims who have been confined to alleged witches’ camps. A research report conducted by the women’s rights organisation Songtaba found that “over half of the women residing in the camps were experiencing depression, and approximately 97% of them reported having a low quality of life.”

The COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020 was a driver of various forms of GBV and other abuses worldwide, in part due to lockdown measures which resulted in many individuals being confined to their homes, often with their abusers, for extended periods. In Ghana, shortly after the initiation of lockdown measures, the Domestic and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service reported a surge in cases of violence and abuse. Additionally, the UNFPA received distress calls from community-based organisations reporting a rise in abuse cases at the grassroots level. The following were trends that occurred as a result of COVID-19:


There was the need to institute immediate interventions to address the situation at hand. The DOVVSU, in partnership with UNFPA Ghana, set up a toll-free line where survivors could report instant cases of abuse wherever they were. This temporary toll-free line later became a fully established call centre to report abuse cases and receive support where needed. This call centre continues to support survivors of abuse and is housed at the premises of the Domestic Violence Secretariat of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social and Protection.

The presence of support systems and NGO-operated shelters such as the Pearl Safe Haven and the Ark Foundation has provided survivors with reliable sources of assistance. Increased awareness and education on the harmful effects of GBV, coupled with the prosecution of perpetrators, albeit slow, and the existence of laws and policies to protect the rights of women and girls, have contributed to the decline in GBV cases. Despite these efforts, the reduction in GBV occurrences has not been significant, as data indicates an increase in the number of violence cases, predominantly affecting women and girls. This suggests that while progress has been made and reporting centres are available, the decrease in GBV has been discouragingly slow.

Efforts to enhance support for survivors of GBV in Ghana, particularly intimate partner violence and sexual assault, are showing signs of improvement. Despite the presence of legal frameworks, survivors have often faced barriers such as limited access to justice, social stigma, and inadequate support services. However, initiatives such as the Orange Support Centre (established with support from UNFPA Ghana in collaboration with the Domestic Violence Secretariat) and the DOVVSU One Stop Centre on Domestic Violence (established with assistance from UNICEF Ghana) are actively addressing these challenges and striving to enhance assistance for survivors. Furthermore, in 2020, UNFPA provided support to the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection to review the Domestic Violence Act, enacted in 2009, to address GBV issues in Ghana, with the aim of making it more responsive to contemporary trends. Despite legal provisions allowing recourse for survivors, accessing them is often hindered by the various challenges mentioned.

Three government-operated support centres have been set up to support victims/survivors of domestic violence in Ghana: the Madina Social Welfare Centre, the Centre for Abused Children, and the DOVVSU’s National One-Stop Centre situated alongside the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service. Providing rehabilitation poses a significant challenge, primarily due to the lack of resources within state agencies to adequately support survivors. Various CSOs and other stakeholders have urged the government to operationalise the Domestic Violence Fund and to allocate resources to key state agencies to enable them to fulfill their responsibilities effectively. This fund is intended to provide necessary resources to support agencies involved in addressing GBV. Additionally, partnerships with the private sector play a vital role in addressing GBV by providing resources for education and sensitisation initiatives.

The National Domestic Violence Act 2007 (Act 732) marked a significant milestone as the first of its kind in West Africa. Its implementation has streamlined numerous interventions in response to GBV in Ghana. Currently undergoing review, the Act is anticipated to become more proactive, with enhanced implementation plans and strategies aimed at effectively addressing GBV issues in the country. Despite its importance, there is a lack of public awareness of the Act, and implementation has encountered various setbacks, largely due to insufficient resources available to agencies tasked with its enforcement.

Furthermore, Ghana has adopted a National Strategic Framework for Ending Child Marriage in Ghana 2017-2026 as part of the  to end child marriages.

Moreover, various government projects such as the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) program and initiatives like the Kayayei Support Initiatives and the Girlz Girlz Talk Show

contribute to complementary efforts to address GBV and empower vulnerable individuals, particularly women and children, across Ghana.


Despite the occurrence of OGBV in Ghana, there are no national legal interventions protecting the interests of those who may experience OGBV. While some interventions exist within general policies addressing online safety, awareness of these policies is limited. Additionally, the policies tend to emphasis the risks of the internet and that online users should exercise caution to avoid becoming victims of abuse. While NGOs have produced guidelines on preventing online abuse and harassment, there are no comprehensive measures to address OGBV in the country.

Ghanian Police Service:


The Orange Support Centre:

  • Tel: 0800111222
  • E-mail: not applicable
  • Website: not applicable

DOVVSU One Stop Shop Center:

  • Tel: 0551000900
  • E-mail: not applicable
  • Website: not applicable

Legal Aid Commission:

Pearl Safe Haven:

ActionAid Ghana:


* This factsheet was prepared with the assistance of Naa-Amy Wayne.

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