Tradition or tragedy? Child marriage debate in Ghana

Tradition or tragedy? Child marriage debate in Ghana

  • Published on
    April 1, 2024
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    Forced Marriage
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A traditional marriage ceremony of a 12-year-old girl to a 63-year-old priest in Accra, Ghana has sparked outrage across the country and around the world. The BBC reports that the priest, Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII, married her in a customary ceremony held on Saturday.

Controversial ceremony

In photos and videos shared online, dozens of community members can be seen attending the ceremony. During the ceremony, it was heard that women told the girl to “dress teasingly for her husband.” While community leaders claimed that the ceremony was purely tradition and custom, hearing the women advise the girl on preparing for wifely duties appears to mean otherwise.

In the Nungua indigenous community, high priests, such as Mr. Tsuru in this case, are also called “Gborbu Wulomo” and are counted as some of the highest traditional leaders. They perform sacrifices for the community, enforce cultural traditions, and pray for their protection. On the other hand, the girl comes from a family that, according to traditions, must provide a bride for the priest in a spiritual process to serve the gods.

The ceremony has attracted heavy criticism on and off social media, demanding authorities get involved.

“The perceived acceptance of child marriages and the open brazen approval or defence of the practice by influential leaders of the community have the potential to embolden certain deviant behaviours like paedophilia.” – Paediatric Association of Ghana

According to reports, the girl and her mother have now been placed under police protection and are getting “the necessary support.” However, no arrests have been made.

Child marriage is illegal in Ghana

Ghanaian law requires both parties to a marriage to be at least 18 years old. While customary marriages are recognized, they may not disguise child marriages. Nevertheless, there are two million marriages in which the wife was a child bride at the time of their union in the West African nation, according to UNICEF. Nineteen percent of those girls are married before turning 18, and 5% are married before celebrating their 15th birthday. More than 90% of these girls are not in school. However, it is also notable that the numbers are declining.

By prohibiting child marriages, governments can take steps toward eliminating forced child marriages in their countries. That is why created a pledge to help end forced marriages. Join over 100,000 people in committing to fight for girls around the world!


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