Customs cannot override laws

The alleged marriage of a young girl to the 63-year-old Gborbu Wulomo of Nungua, Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII, has brought into focus the conflict that can arise between customs, traditions and the laws of the country.


The said traditional marriage ceremony which occurred on Saturday, March 30, 2024 at Nungua has been greeted with widespread condemnation by the public. Many groups have described the said ceremony as illegal, unlawful, distasteful, barbaric, unconstitutional, and a gross violation of the right of the child at the centre of the ceremony.

However, the Office of the Gborbu Wulomo-Shitse has defended the marriage ceremony, describing it as purely customary and not sexual. Although initial reports indicated that the girl at the centre of the purported marriage was 12 years old, a spokesperson for the Office of the Gborbu Wulomo-Shitse, Nii Bortey Kofi Frankwah, said the girl was 16.

Addressing what he described as misconceptions regarding purported marriage rites involving Naa Okromo, he said the marriage ceremony was a crucial part of the traditions of the people of Nungua.

He said the ceremony was the customary and traditional rites that were performed for Naa Okromo to assume her official role fully as Naa Yoomo Ayemoede, one of the four religious wives of the Gborbu deity.

But with all due respect, the Daily Graphic reasons that the explanation by the Office of the Gborbu Wolomo-Shitse is untenable. A marriage ceremony, irrespective of its purpose, imposes certain obligations on parties, which could have a psychological, emotional and physical strain on people.  A 12 or 16-year-old child does not have the fortitude, grit and maturity to withstand such pressures.

The fact that the said marriage is to a deity makes it even more serious that it should not be associated with children. Even with mere mortals, people are having challenges in their marriages, how much more with spiritual beings, which represent the customs of an entire group of people.

According to the spokesperson for the Gborbu Wulomo, Naa Yoomo Ayemoede, a revered role within the community, plays an integral part in traditional and religious ceremonies, including the cleaning and ablution of the Gborbu Temple during the Kplejoo Homowo festival.

This shows that the wife of the deity has enormous responsibilities not only to the deity but to the entire community. Imposing such responsibilities on a child is likely to curtail her education, well-being and growth, and also affect her physical, psychological and emotional growth.

If indeed the girl is 16 years old as stated by the Office of the Gborbu Wulomo, what stopped the organisers of the marriage ceremony from exercising patience and allowing her to reach the required age of 18 before performing the ceremony? 

Children are delicate beings who deserve the care, love and utmost protection at all times to spur their growth and development.  It is for this reason that there are numerous international conventions and laws in the country to promote their welfare.

Even under our criminal justice system, children are treated differently. The Juvenile Justice Act, 2003 (Act 653) which governs how young offenders should be treated, has an overriding objective, which is to ensure that the best interest of the juvenile is protected.

Child marriage is one of the worst practices that inhibit the growth of children and infringe their fundamental human rights.  According to UNICEF, one in five girls aged 20 to 24 are married before the age of 18. The Constitution puts the age of maturity at 18, while the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560) specifically bars marriage of any form involving people below 18 years.

Culture, tradition and customs are important aspects of our lives as a people. In fact, the 1992 Constitution recognises our customs and traditions, and it if for this reason that the chieftaincy institution is accorded full recognition and protection in the Constitution.

However, it is unacceptable to hide under the cloak of customs and traditions to disregard the laws of the country, in this case, laws that protect the rights of children. As a country, we have dealt with abhorrent practices such as trokosi and female genital mutilation. Let us not allow child marriage, no matter how it is presented to fester.

Inasmuch as we must respect and revere customs and tradition, we must equally condemn any custom that seeks to infringe the rights and freedoms of the people.  The Daily Graphic joins civil societies which have condemned the marriage ceremony and calls for all pepetrators involved to be dealt with in accordance with the law.

Connect With Us : 0242202447 | 0551484843 | 0266361755 | 059 199 7513 |

Like what you see?

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...