Reporting rape is traumatic for anyone, but having to pay two months’ wages to complete the medical form prevents many in Ghana from seeking justice, said a leading actor whose campaign to waive fees has reached the presidential palace.
British-Ghanaian actor Ama K. Abebrese – who starred with Idris Elba in the award-winning 2015 drama Beasts of No Nation – started a petition after hearing about the prohibitive charges in the West African nation where rape convictions are rare.
The minimum doctor’s fee for filling out a police medical form is 300 cedi (£40) – twice the average monthly earnings of informal workers, said Ms Abebrese, one of Ghana’s most influential TV hosts who started out as a teenager presenter in London.
“If you can’t afford it, it is almost like you are denied justice on the basis of money,” said Ms Abebrese, whose petition has attracted more than 14,000 signatures in a month.
If you don’t get that medical report, essentially, the case to prosecute dies right there and then.”
Rape, sexual assault and domestic violence are significantly underreported in Ghana and the police lack capacity to effectively investigate cases, which can take years to reach court, according to women’s rights groups.
Community leaders sometimes negotiate for rapists to pay compensation to victims’ families but they have come under fire in recent years for not taking the crime seriously enough.
Ms Abebrese said she was hopeful that the government would scrap the medical fees after she met with Ghana’s first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who said the president had been made aware of the situation, and with gender minister Cynthia Morrison.