The Ghanaian based child rights advocacy group, Child Online Africa has asked political parties in the country to desist from using children as campaign props ahead of the general elections in December.
In a statement the group said it has “taken note of a regrettable trend on the internet especially social media which has seen many under-aged persons either being coerced or lured into making political party endorsements or being propped to pursue a party-political agenda ahead of the 2020 general Elections.”
According to the group “such activities on internet violate domestic, regional, global protocols as well as laws governing the rights of the child including provisions on child welfare as contained in Children’s (Amendment) Act 2016 of Ghana.”
The group backed its claim with Section 11 of the Children’s Act which states that “No person shall deprive a child capable of forming views the right to express an opinion, to be listened to and to participate in decisions which affect his wellbeing, the opinion of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child”.
Child Online Africa in its statement asked parents to be mindful of “their crucial role as gate keepers who have the responsibility of safeguarding the welfare of children and to caution that they prevent any political party or association from exploiting these young ones in such an undue manner.
It would be of interest for parents to note that such footages and other campaign materials or adverts uploaded on the internet create a digital footprint which in some cases could affect the fortunes or opportunities of these young ones in future.”
With political campaigns already in full swing and political parties selling out their messages, the child rights group urged “political parties to immediately order their campaign communications bureau to pull down any of their contents posted Online which portrays the image or pictures of children being used as props for the 2020 campaign.
These parties ought to be reminded that as much as they do not want minors to vote in the general elections, it is only fair that they also be excluded from all forms and spheres of Electioneering either before, during and after the December polls.”
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Often law enforcement agencies are unable to enforce such laws to prevent political parties from refraining from using children as campaign props.
“The law enforcement agencies especially the cybercrime unit of the Ghana Police service must be seen to be effective at this time by acting swiftly to apprehend persons who are found culpable of this offense,” Child Online Africa said in its statement.
It also asked media owners to “contribute to child online protection by making sure their editorial policies include written procedures that ensure consistent implementation of policies and processes that protect freedom of expression for children and young people, as well as documentation of compliance with these policies.”