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Feature: Ghanaian priest’s marriage, legal debate, and cultural clash stir outcry

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An influential traditional priest, aged 63, has sparked outrage in Ghana by marrying a 12-year-old girl.

Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII married the 12-year-old girl, now identified as a 16-year-old, in a customary ceremony held on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Nungua, a community in the Greater Accra Region.

Community leaders have, however, insisted that the criticisms are because people do not understand their customs and traditions, saying the criticism “comes from a point of ignorance.”

They insist that it is “purely tradition and custom,” explaining that the girl started the rites to become the priest’s wife six years ago.

However, in seeking to clarify what was reported by the media, the Office of the Priest says the marriage of the girl is to Gborbu, the deity.

According to the office, Naa Okromo is one of the special children chosen by the Gborbu deity to dedicate their lives to serving the god.

Speaking at a press conference on April 2, the Director of Administration at the Office, Rev. Dr. Daniel Nii Gyasi Ankrah, clarified that Naa Okromo is to occupy the stool of Naa Yoomo Ayemuede.

This role, he said, can only be occupied by an indigene of Nungua and individuals of a particular lineage, adding that the girl would not be expected to fulfill marital duties.

Critics have not taken too kindly to the marriage of the girl.


“Ghana as a country has pledged to the international communities to protect its citizens through the ratification of international conventions and protocols to protect women and girls against violence. Article (4) of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW) (1993) states that no state should invoke any custom, tradition, or religious consideration ‘in the perpetration of violence against women. Article (2) of the AU Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women also enjoins states to eliminate cultural and traditional conduct that reinforces the belief that discriminates against women, including stereotyped gender roles,” Girls Not Brides, a consortium of child rights NGOs in Ghana, said in a statement.

The statement continued to say, “Child marriage is a violation of human rights that robs young girls of their childhood and prospects, and we must work together to stop the said spiritual marriage of the 63-year Wulomo of Nungua to the 12-year-old.”

The Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) also stated, “NETRIGHT disagrees with and condemns the utterances and biased justification of the act by members of the Nungua Traditional Council as a practice that has existed for generations. This does not give credence to what has occurred and has no basis in our laws. It just goes to show that several young women who could have had fulfilling lives and been protected have had to be burdened with this practice.”


When Human Rights Lawyer Abdulai Jalaldeen spoke to Mark Smith on A1 Radio’s Day Break Upper East Show, he mentioned that the contention around the girl’s age is irrelevant because the girl is still under 18.

“Whether the age is 13 or 16, there is still a conflict with that tradition and the law. It is known to everyone that in Ghana, you cannot get married when you are not 18. Despite that at 16 they have the right to consent to sex, it doesn’t mean that they can get married. The law that talks about consent to sex does not talk about marriage. There is a contradiction between the traditions and the law,” he said.

Mr. Jalaldeen called on traditional leaders to keep their traditions in sync with the laws of the country.

He said, “If you go back to our Constitution, especially Article 26, it talks about our tradition and culture. It gives us room to do self-introspection because it says that we should uphold our culture and religion dearly. It goes further to say that any of the practices that are dehumanizing and degrading to the mental well-being of the person are prohibited. So it doesn’t come out to say that the Nungua traditional council is prohibited, but let’s now do self-introspection. Our constitution says that you cannot marry a girl under the age of 18. So if you have a culture or tradition that says that you can marry below 18, that means you need to synchronize. That is the self-introspection we can do so that you don’t have the law enforcement agencies coming into your system to tell you to bring out all your traditional practices, and then I will tell you what is right.

The NCCE also reminded the Ga Traditional Council that the Children’s Act, Act 560 of 1998, Section 14, (1&2) provides that “The minimum age of marriage of whatever kind shall be eighteen years”.

“It is also worth pointing out that the same section of the Children’s Act says that “No person shall force a child (a) to be betrothed; (b) to be the subject of a dowry transaction; or (c) to be married”. While the Nungua Traditional Council contends that this union is voluntary, it is unclear to the NCCE how a pre-pubescent, pre-teen minor can consent to such an arrangement,” a statement signed by the Chairperson of the NCCE, Kathleen Addy said.

The Commission called on the Nungua Traditional Council to note that the same 1992 Constitution, in Article 39 also states that “traditional practices which are injurious to the health and well-being of the person are abolished.”


Anthropologist Dr. Niagia Santuah, speaking to A1 Radio, was of the opinion that customs are a big part of the lives of Ghanaians, and as such, urged caution in the conclusions that would be drawn in the matter.

“Laws are not the only things we use to regulate human interactions in society. As a matter of fact, the daily lives of many people in this country are governed by customs and traditions.”

Meanwhile, the Ghana Police Service has placed both mother and child under protective custody.

Source: A1Radioonline.Com|101.1MHZ|Mark Kwasi Ahumah Smith|Bolgatanga|

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