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FIDA Condemns ‘Kissing Anglican Priest’

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The Ghana branch of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), has condemned the Anglican priest, Rev Father Balthazar Obeng Larbi, for kissing girls during a church service in a school.
The group in a statement on Wednesday, August 18, 2021, said “Sexual harassment and sexual abuse is not a laughing matter” and that “For far too long, the issue of sexual harassment has been at best side-lined and at worst silenced in the church.”

The President of FIDA-Ghana, Afua Brown-Eyeson, who signed the statement said “It is now time to challenge cultures of entitlement and abuse of power by clerics which plague women and girls in religious settings.”

She added, “The reality though is that sexual harassment and abuse by clerics has been in the news for quite a while due to undue influence, duress and fear of religious authority. Though religious authority is regarded highly in Ghana, it should not be used as a cloak to oppress and abuse women and girls who most often need the protection of these clerics.”

FIDA, however, applauded the Anglican Church of Ghana “for taking this matter seriously by relieving Rev Father Larbi of his duties, providing counselling for the girls and investigating this unfortunate incident.”

The group also called on women and girls who have been sexually harassed in churches to come out with their experiences in order to raise awareness of these despicable acts.

Background

Social media platforms went ablaze last Monday, August 16, 2021, when a video showing Rev. Fr Larbi kissing three female students of the single-sex college which trains teachers.

Read also: ‘Kissing priest’ asked to step aside

He was seen standing by a podium while the three students walked up to him in turns, where he kissed them on their lips.

Wearing a full cassock, the Anglican priest was also seen urging the students to come to him and remove their face masks.

He then kissed them, amid shouts and jubilation from other students in what appeared to be an auditorium.

On Wednesday, August 17, 2021, Rev. Fr Baltharzar Obeng Larbi was directed by management of the college to step aside to facilitate investigations into the matter by the Anglican Church of Ghana.

Below is FIDA’s statement

FIDA-GHANA CONDEMNS ANGLICAN PRIEST KISSING FEMALE STUDENTS

Since yesterday, the attention of the country has been drawn to the video published by some media houses and circulating on some social media platforms of an Anglican priest, Rev Father Balthazar Obeng Larbi, kissing girls during a church service in a school. Also circulating are screenshots of chats allegedly posted by students of the same school claiming the incident as the modus operandi of the said reverend father.

Quite disturbing to watch was the jeering and excitement on the faces of onlookers which in no doubt emboldened the perpetrator to continue kissing the girls. Sexual harassment and sexual abuse is not a laughing matter.

For far too long, the issue of sexual harassment has been at best side-lined and at worst silenced in the church. It is now time to challenge cultures of entitlement and abuse of power by clerics which plague women and girls in religious settings. The reality though is that sexual harassment and abuse by clerics has been in the news for quite a while due to undue influence, duress and fear of religious authority. Though religious authority is regarded highly in Ghana, it should not be used as a cloak to oppress and abuse women and girls who most often need the protection of these clerics.

Needless to say, sexual harassment is gender based violence and a violation of the human rights of girls and women and is prohibited in the 1992 Constitution, the Domestic Violence Act and the Labour Act. The Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) defines “sexual harassment as any unwelcome, offensive or importunate sexual advances or request made by an employer or superior officer or a co-worker, whether the worker is a man or woman. The effect of sexual harassment in the academic and professional lives of women has in most situations denied women of their rightful places of merit and contributed to the huge gender gaps in education and the workplace, thus the need for the Affirmative Action Law.

FIDA-Ghana applauds the Anglican Church of Ghana for taking this matter seriously by relieving Rev Father Larbi of his duties, providing counselling for the girls and investigating this unfortunate incident. It is now time for women and girls who have been sexually harassed in churches to come out with their experiences in order to raise awareness of these despicable acts. Being mindful of the possibility of being stigmatised for speaking out, FIDA Ghana would like to inform the public of its Gender Based Violence reporting phone number or whatsapp platform on 0554121205 and website on www.save@fida.org. These platforms provides opportunity for victims of violence to report such acts whilst providing a trained lawyer to attend to their legal needs.

FIDA-Ghana appeals to the media houses and persons to be circumspect in sharing the video to protect the identity of the girls as they are victims.

Finally, FIDA-Ghana calls on leaders at every level within religious Institutions to initiate changes and to establish and maintain a culture which abhors sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. In order to make this work, we call on members of religious institutions, students, faculty, staff, and administrators to assume responsibility for promoting a harassment-free environment.

(Signed)

Afua Brown-Eyeson

President, FIDA-Ghana.

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