Outrage as traditional Ghana priest, 63, marries girl

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Close-up of a bride hand showing her engagement ring to a friend at bridal showerImage source, Getty Images

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

The priest, Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII, married her in a customary ceremony held on Saturday.

In the face of criticism, community leaders have said people do not understand their customs and tradition.

The legal minimum age to get married in Ghana is 18 and the prevalence of child marriage has declined, but it continues to happen.

According to the global campaigning NGO Girls Not Brides,19% of girls in the country are married before they reach 18 and 5% get married before their 15th birthday.

Videos and photos of Saturday’s elaborate event that was attended by dozens of community members have been widely shared on social media, triggering an outcry among many Ghanaians.

During the ceremony, women speaking in the local language Ga told the girl to dress teasingly for her husband.

They can also be heard advising her to be prepared for wifely duties and to use the perfumes they gifted her to boost her sexual appeal to her husband.

The statements fuelled the outrage, as they have been perceived to mean that the marriage was not merely ceremonial.

Critics have called for the authorities to dissolve the marriage and investigate Mr Tsuru.

Leaders of the Nungua indigenous community, to which both the girl and the priest belong, have condemned the public’s opposition to the marriage, saying the criticism “comes from a point of ignorance”.

Nii Bortey Kofi Frankwa II, a local community leader, said on Sunday that the girl’s role as the priest’s wife is “purely tradition and custom”.

He added that the girl started the rites to become the priest’s wife six years ago, but the process did not interfere with her education.

The girl is expected to undergo a second customary ceremony to purify her for her new role as the wife of the high priest. The ceremony will also prepare her for marital responsibilities such as childbearing, local media reported.

Mr Tsuru is a “Gborbu Wulomo”, or traditional high priest in the Nungua indigeneous community in the capital, Accra.

As a spiritual leader, the priest is among the community’s highest-ranking traditional leaders.

He performs sacrifices on behalf of the community, prays for the community’s protection, enforces cultural practices and leads traditional rites during events such as the installation of traditional chiefs.

Government authorities are yet to respond to the controversial marriage.

Ghanaian law recognises customary marriages, but does not allow for child marriages under the guise of culture or tradition.

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