Poverty and crime: Uncovering the hidden face of sexual crimes in urban low-income communities in Ghana

  • Charlotte Wrigley-Asante
  • George Owusu
  • Martin Oteng-Ababio
  • Adobea Y. Owusu
Keywords: gender, poverty, sexual crimes, urban low-income communities, Ghana


Although the debate about the link between poverty and the incidence of urban crime in developing countries is complex, nowhere is the link more persuasive than in the urban low-income communities of these countries. Based on official police data, key informant interviews (KIIs), and focus group discussions (FGDs) from five low-income urban neighbourhoods in Ghana, we analyse the incidence and drivers of sexual crimes in urban low-income communities. The analysis revealed that sexual offences are one of the major crimes in Ghana, in spite of the legal and institutional frameworks to curb these acts. We argue that in urban low-income communities, poor housing (reflected in high room occupancy rates, overcrowding, and congestion) and poverty in general promote sexual crimes in such communities. Moreover, patriarchal attitudes serve to exacerbate particularly females’ exposure and vulnerability to sexual crimes. We recommend that policy measures to reduce sexual crimes should not focus exclusively on education and institutionalization of legal frameworks but also extend to poverty reduction programmes that include urban planning and slum housing upgrading.

Key words: gender; poverty; sexual crimes; urban low-income communities; Ghana

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 0855-9414