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Punish My Husband but not so Hard: Religion, Customary Values and Conventional Approaches to Human Rights in Ghana

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AbstractIncorporating international human rights provisions into domestic legislation and implementing them have always been a challenge for several African countries. This is especially so where religious and customary values are involved. The limitations of conventional approaches employing legislation, litigation and protests alone often become radically exposed in such contexts. This was illustrated by a long public debate that preceded the passage of Ghana’s Domestic Violence Act (Act 723), 2007. A national debate, facilitated by the proliferation of FM radio stations that employ both English and the leading mother-tongues, enabled citizens at the grassroots to also participate in the discussions. Using the debate mentioned above as a case-study, this article discusses constraints imposed on the growth of human rights culture in situations where religious and customary values are widely held. Since such values inspire behaviours and attitudes rooted in religious belief and custom, they remain largely resistant to purely secular methods. At the end the article proposes an integrative approach that combines conventional methods with religious and cultural resources in an effort to gain wide acceptance of international human rights norms in such societies.

Affiliations: 1: Study of Religions, University of Ghana Legon Ghana, URL:


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