BY Francis Akhalbey, 8:50am April 02, 2024,

Ghana: 63-year-old priest criticized after marrying 12-year-old girl

A traditional high priest in Ghana was criticized after he married a 12-year-old girl -- Photo Credit: Maahid Photos

A high-ranking and influential traditional high priest in Ghana drew the ire of the public over the weekend after he married a 12-year-old girl. According to BBC, Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII, 63, married the juvenile on Saturday in a customary event.

Mr. Tsuru, locally referred to as “Gborbu Wulomo”, is a spiritual leader for the people of Nungua in the West African nation’s capital city of Accra. The traditional high priest’s duties include carrying out sacrifices for his indigenous community and praying for their safety. He also makes sure cultural rituals are observed and plays crucial roles in ceremonies including the installation of traditional chiefs. 

Community leaders in response to the outrage said that the people complaining about the marriage are ignorant of their customs and traditions. Ghanaian law allows individuals aged 18 and above to marry. And though child marriage in the West African nation isn’t rampant in recent times, the practice persists. 

Footage as well as photos of Mr. Tsuru’s marriage to the 12-year-old girl was shared on social media, and several community members graced the event. Some women who spoke with the bride during the event advised her to dress in a way that would please her 63-year-old husband, BBC reported.

The women, who spoke in their local Ga language, were also heard advising the girl about performing her duties as a wife and telling her to spray perfumes to seduce her husband. People who condemned the marriage urged authorities to arrest the traditional priest and also dissolve their union.

But community leaders in response to the backlash said that the outrage “comes from a point of ignorance.” A local community leader identified as Nii Bortey Kofi Frankwa II also said that the 12-year-old’s wifely duties to the 63-year-old priest are “purely tradition and custom.” He also claimed that the rituals for the girl to be married to the priest started when she was around 6 years old.

Local media stated that a second traditional marriage ceremony would be held for the girl. The rites during that ceremony will include getting the juvenile ready to perform marital roles including giving birth.

But the GaDangme Council released a statement claiming that the high priest’s relationship with the 12-year-old girl was just a betrothal – not marriage, Citi Newsroom reported. The council stressed that it is “important to clarify that the traditional ruler has stated that the relationship with the underage girl is a betrothal and not a marriage. This distinction to us has altered the legal implications.”

“We are inclined to side with the Gborbu Wulomo since the original reportage made the point that there was another ceremony that awaited the girl to purify and prepare her for procreation,” the statement added.

The council said that though an underaged person could be betrothed, that individual cannot engage in a sexual relationship until the person reaches the age prescribed by law. The council said that could negatively impact the 12-year-old’s education and put her life in danger during childbirth as her organs are yet to mature. 

“She should continue her education until she reaches the legal age of marriage, and even marriage should not disrupt her education if she is still willing to continue,” the statement also said.

“The GaDangme Council also urges the parents of the child to keep an eye on her and let her understand that notwithstanding the betrothal demanded by custom, she is still a child and entitled to enjoy life and engage in youthful activities like all others of her age.”

Meanwhile, the Ghana Police Service in a statement on Monday said that they have identified the 12-year-old girl and launched an investigation into the marriage in question.

“The Ghana Police Service has identified and located the 12-year-old girl who is alleged to have been married to the 63-year-old Gborbu Wulomo in Nungua, Accra. The girl and her mother are currently under Police protection,” the statement said.

“The Ghana Police Service is working with the  Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection and the Department of Social Welfare to provide her with the necessary support while the matter  is being investigated.”

Customary marriages are legal in Ghana. But the West African nation’s laws prohibit culture or tradition being used as a basis for child marriages.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 2, 2024

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