The JPC office in Grand Gedeh received a case in March when the police called with a request to intervene in a matter. The police told Anthony Thomas, one of the Zwedru monitors, that an 11-year-old girl had come to them seeking help because her family had expelled her from their home.
Anthony met first with the girl and heard her story. She said she had fled her home because she had become pregnant by a 30-year old man against her family’s wishes; when her father learned of the pregnancy, he threatened to beat her hard enough to abort the pregnancy. Anthony agreed to her request to intervene in the case, and went to meet her father. The father agreed to participate in a mediation, and he and the daughter later met Anthony at the JPC office for a mediation that lasted more than eight hours.
Anthony began by explaining the process of mediation and began by allowing both parties to explain their stories fully. Throughout the course of the mediation, the daughter changed her mind, first expressing her desire to return to her home so long as her father would agree not to beat her, and later stating that she wished to remain with her boyfriend. The father denied threatening to beat her. He was particularly upset because he had engaged his daughter to another man. Anthony said she was too young to do that.
Eventually, the parties agreed that the daughter would return to her family home, the father would not beat her, and she would have the child in the home. But when it came time to sign the mediation agreement, the father refused. In their culture, which I am a part of, judging or mediating between children and parents is not accepted, and for a father to sign an agreement with a daughter is particularly difficult. They left that day without signing.
From there, I intervened one day upon visiting the JPC office in Zwedru. At Anthony’s request, I went to meet the father at his home and after about three hours of talking managed to convince him to sign the mediation agreement. I also told him what the law says about such a matter – that the man had committed statutory rape and that while we would not report the daughter’s boyfriend to the police against the wishes of the daughter, the boyfriend deserved to be prosecuted for his crime. Later he signed the agreement, the daughter moved her clothes back in with her family and has lately been assisting her to take treatment at the hospital for her pregnancy.