The Rights of Children in Conflict with the Law in Ghana

In: The International Journal of Children's Rights
Robert Kwame Ame Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford Campus

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In a country where implementing children's rights in general remains a major challenge, the idea of according rights to children in conflict with the law can be a daunting task. With too many other children's problems to deal with such as the millions of street children and child laborers, female circumcision, and sexual violence against female children, the needs and rights of juvenile offenders could easily be relegated to the bottom of the government's priorities for children. Nonetheless, by virtue of ratifying the UNCRC in 1990, Ghana has made a commitment to address the needs and respect the rights of children in Ghana including its juvenile offenders. Thirteen years after ratifying the CRC, the Ghanaian Parliament passed the Juvenile Justice Act 2003 (Act 653). What rights does the Act accord children in conflict with the law? Do the policies and practices of the new juvenile justice system measure up to the standards of the Convention? These are the key questions addressed in this paper. The paper concludes that vis a vis the CRC, the new Juvenile Justice Act looks good on paper but argues that there is a colossal gap between policy and practice. The paper ends with suggestions on how to effectively protect the rights of children in conflict with the law.

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