Taking medical fees from survivors of domestic violence illegal – CSDV

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The Coalition for Survivors of Domestic Violence (CSDV) has said the practice of taking medical fees from survivors of domestic violence is “illegal”, “unfair” and unconstitutional and has, thus, called for the abolishment of “survivor-paid medical fees in Ghana”.

The coalition is made up of diverse professionals, including lawyers, doctors, police and media practitioners.

In a statement signed by its Co-ordinator, Irene Aborchie-Nyahe, the group lauded the “15,000+ concerned citizens who signed the online petition started by Ama K Abrese, as well as those who have used their private platforms to advocate change.”

It said it welcomes “the open debate on medical fees, which can be as much as GHS800 to complete medical forms (a key evidential document to initiate criminal investigation and legal action) and as much as GHS500 for medical professionals rendering their professional opinion to facilitate prosecution.

“With one in three women being a survivor of gender-based violence in Ghana, the prohibitive fees place yet another oppressive limitation on women seeking redress and healing following abuse.”

The coalition emphasised that: “When we fail to successfully and effectively prosecute cases of abuse, we contribute to the normalisation of sexual offences and violence”.

“This has to stop.”

The coalition made reference to the law which provides that: “Survivors of domestic violence are to receive free medical treatment from the State (section 8 Domestic Violence Act (Act 732); No fees shall be paid in respect of any medical examination or required by any department of State, which include the courts of law and the police (Section 3 Hospital Fees Act (Act 387)” and “hospital bills for child-survivors must be taken up by the State (The Hospitals Child Health Protection Guidelines)”.

The law also stated: “Court witnesses, when subpoenaed (which may include doctors) are to be compensated for the services rendered to the court; Preventing a survivor from obtaining a medical report due to financial issues is offensive to the survivor’s dignity (Article 15 of the Constitution / Martin Kpebu vs. AG (2017 and 2019); and It is trite that a survivor of rape, defilement or domestic violence in general is only a witness for the State in a criminal case.”

The coalition indicated that “the practice of taking medical fees directly from survivors is illegal, unfair and contrary to the constitutionally protected fundamental human rights to be enjoyed to all citizens; in particular, the inviolability of one’s dignity (Article 15) and equal access to justice (Article 17).”

The coalition, therefore, called upon the government to “issue a clear directive with the utmost urgency addressing this matter and instructing the cessation of all medical fees directly from survivors of gender-based violence; To instruct the AG’s Office, Gender Ministry, Judicial Services, Ghana Medical Association and Ghana Police to clarify and re-state their internal processes as regards Medical Fees (and where necessary expert support during prosecutions) when engaging survivors of gender-based violence.

It also wants the government “to fund the Victims of Domestic Violence Support Fund as required under the Domestic Violence Act (Act 732) and further buttressed by the High Court in Martin Kpebu vs. Attorney-General (2017 / 2019).”

The coalition added that: “The public uproar” on the abolishment of medical fees for the survivors of domestic violence “must be met with real action” and implored all concerned to act with urgency.

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