We have to situate the child in the context of the law – Bright Appiah on marriage of 12-yr-old-girl to 63-yr-old Chief Priest

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Bright Appiah is the Executive Director of Child Rights International
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The Executive Director of Child Right International, Mr Bright Appiah has said that there is a need to situate the 12-year-old girl who got married to the 63-year-old Chief Priest in the context of what the law says.

He explained that whether it is a religious and traditional rite or even a civil action that involves a child, what the law says in respect of the child should be paramount.

Speaking on News 360 on TV3 Monday, April 1, he said “This particular issue is a bit complex because of some of the explanations we are getting from them and the investigations that we have also carried out out, things that are coming out. This particular issue we should not just look at it in the context of fulfilling a tradition but to also look at how we can protect the rights of children who are involved in this particular matter.

“All the explanations that we have gathered from them and also speaking to some traditional people in the area point to the fact that indeed, this is a custom that they do to make sure people perform specific duties, and the purpose of performing that duty is that the person should be a virgin. So irrespective of the age bracket it is expected that somebody must perform that rite but because it is about the child we have to situate the child in the context of the law because there is so much that protects the interest of children so whether it is the religious activity or traditional activity or a civil act the position of the law in respect of what the child is should also be taken into consideration in performing some of these rites.”

Also commenting on this matter, Former Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Bampoe Addo described the marriage as an illegality.

She said it is a crime for which the state ought to have intervened.

“I am expecting that the state, the Government of Ghana should have intervened, that is their legal responsibility.

“I am expecting that with immediate effect the state ought to have intervened to address the issue because what has happened is a crime and is unlawful under our Children Act, under our 1992 Constitution and we have ratified the international convention on the rights of children. So, it is clearly unlawful, I expect the state to intervene and to also protect the girl,” the private legal practitioner told TV3 in an interview on News 360 on Monday, April 1.

“I expect the government, the police, the Ministry of Gender to intervene…and ensure that the legal processes are initiated” she stressed.

The Nungua Traditional Authority explained the rationale for the marriage which raised concerns among the public.
The Office of the Overlord of Ga Dangme clarified that the marriage is strictly for traditional purposes as she will not be performing any conjugal rite.
Nungua Mankralo Tetteh Nii Gbotery Kofi Frankwa explained that the minor would only be assisting the  Overlord with his duties at the temple as a virgin.

Speaking in an interview with TV3 on Monday, April 1, he said “This is the second wife she is almost 90 years old; can one say that the Gborbu Wulomo is having what concerns are being raised with her?  Obviously, no.  But is a customary duty It is a customary duty for Naa Yomo to perform and that customary duty calls for a virgin.

“Her childhood has never been denied, there are many chiefs and queens that were installed chiefs and queens when they were even in their mother’s belly, their rights were never taken away, indeed it enhanced and gave them certain privileges that ordinary children will not even have.”

By the customs of their community, Naa Okromo now assumes the traditional name Naa Ayemoede.

But this union is not complete without further rites. Naa Ayemoede is to undergo a second customary ceremony, one centered on purification.

This rite will empower her to fulfill all the duties expected of her as the wife of the Gborbu Wulomo, including the crucial role of procreation.

Meanwhile, the Gborbu Wulomo temple has been saying that the 12-year-old girl has been designated to attend to one of the 99 deities of the Ga-Adangbe group, which necessitates her being a virgin.

The ceremony, which according to the spokesperson for the temple, Nii Bortey Kofi Frankwa II, began six years ago, was made public to ensure the young girl’s purity is maintained in order to protect her from sexual violation by men.

He has been explaining at a press conference that the role the young girl is expected to perform within the shrine is traditionally reserved for virgins.

He indicates that those criticising the practice and calling for the prosecution of the Wulomo lack insight on the Ga-Dangme tradition, something they should have consulted before laying bare their criticisms.

“When somebody makes such a call it comes from a point of ignorance. Because first, you need to come closer and ask so that you will appreciate what it is but not take hook line, and sinker what is being said,” he said at the press conference Monday, April 1, 2024.

“Because it goes beyond what is being preached out there. It is deeper than what is being preached. It is deeper for our spirituality,” he added.