A leading actor whose movement to waive fees has hit the presidential palace said that reporting abuse is painful for everyone, but having to pay two months' salaries to complete the medical form keeps those in Ghana from finding justice.
After reading about the prohibitive charges in the West African country, where rape cases are rare, British-Ghanaian actor Ama K. Abebrese, who starred with Idris Elba in the award-winning 2015 drama Beasts of No Land, launched a petition.
Ms Abebrese, one of Ghana's most popular TV hosts who started off as a teenager presenter in London, said that the minimum doctor's fee for filling out a police medical form is 300 cedi double the average monthly earnings of informal staff.
If you can't afford it, it's almost like you're denied money-based justice, "said Ms Abebrese, whose petition in a month has drawn over 14,000 signatures."In essence, if you don't have the medical examination, the evidence for litigation fails right then and there".
In Ghana, rape , sexual harassment and domestic abuse are greatly underreported and, according to women's rights organizations, the police lack the capacity to adequately prosecute complaints that can take years to enter justice. Public officials often bargain with rapists to pay restitution to the families of the injured, but in recent years they have come under criticism for not taking the crime seriously enough.
Ms. Abebrese said she was confident that after she met with Ghanaian First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who said the President had been made aware of the case, and with Gender Minister Cynthia Morrison, the government would scrap the medical fees. The Thomson Reuters Foundation was told by a Gender Ministry spokeswoman that they were "working on it." Sheilla Abayie-Buckman, the police spokeswoman, said several persons could not afford to complete the medical form.
"For an average citizen, it is very costly. No more than 50 percent can afford it, I suppose,' said Ms Abayie-Buckman, who was unable to provide data on cases of rape.
According to a Ghana Medical Association (GMA) paper seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, doctors fee 300 to 800 cedi for filling out police medical forms and 1,000 to 2,000 cedi for providing a medical opinion for legal purposes.
Frank Ankobea, president of the GMA, which serves medics and sets payments, said that, if called to court, it was appropriate to pay the travel and expenses of physicians.
"With all other occupations, practitioners charge that and it is so," he said, adding, "the government should bear (the cost) and guarantee that all these arrangements are made."
Ms Abebrese said she had received hundreds of calls from victims of sexual harassment since the campaign started, who were reluctant to obtain justice because of the cost.
"Their cases have never been tried by so many persons, it just opened my eyes," she said.
"You think you have an idea, but you have no idea of the magnitude," said Ms Abebrese, who recently called for a relationship specialist to be barred from Ghanaian TV in an interview, saying that "every rape survivor loves the act."
Most Ghanaians claim that if they wear revealing clothing, women are to blame for abuse, according to a government report.
In other African nations, rape victims are still unable to seek justice, said Jean-Paul Murunga, a program officer based in Nairobi for the women's rights organisation Equality Now.
He said that Kenya's rape survivors have to spend $10 to $15 for a medical report and that free post-rape treatment is only available in many countries in centres run by charities.
In order to guarantee access to justice, Mr Murunga called on African governments to live up to legally binding commitments made in a pan-African women's rights treaty known as the Maputo Protocol.
"The protocol ... the protocol ... African states are expected to have financial and other tools to deter and eliminate violence against women, he said. "It remains to be realized."
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