One of the rites being performed on the girl
One of the rites being performed on the girl

Marriage between 63-year-old Gborbu Wulomo and 12-year-old girl: • NETRIGHT disappointed with Nungua Traditional Council

The Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) is made up of 179 organisations and over 300 individual members. 

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We write to express our disappointment and distress at the news of the marriage between the 63-year-old Gborbu Wulomo, Nuumo Borketey Laweh XXXIII, and 12-year-old Naa Okromo, which took place last Saturday, March 30, 2024 which the Nungua Traditional Council says hinges on tradition and customs.

This act is a violation of the fundamental human rights of the child involved; her right to life, dignity, respect, leisure, liberty, health, education and shelter.

As a country governed by both national and international laws which supersede any tradition and custom, it is disturbing to observe the impunity with which these laws have been taken for granted and disregarded in this instance.  

Rights of the child

First and foremost, Article 22 subsection 2 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana states that, “All cultural practices which dehumanise or are injurious to the physical and mental wellbeing of a person are prohibited.”  

Secondly, we have the Children’s Act of 1998 that prohibits child marriages.  In addition, as entrenched in the Criminal Code, child marriage is criminalised.
NETRIGHT reminds and draws the attention of the GaDangme Traditional Council to the following:

1) Article 28 of the 1992 Constitution, Children's Act, 1998 (Act 560), and section 101 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29). Supra, note 14. Act 560: Section 14 (1) provides that “A person shall not force a child (a) to be betrothed, (b) to be a subject of dowry transaction, or (c) to be married.”

 The Children’s Act sets 18 years as the minimum age for marriage, and further outlaws any form of child marriage within the jurisdiction. Any person who acts in contravention of these provisions shall be liable to a fine or to a term of imprisonment or to both.

2) Ghana as a country has ratified international conventions and protocols to protect women and girls against violence. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW)(1993) Article (4) indicates that member states should condemn violence against women and should not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination.

Article (2) of the AU Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women also enjoins the state to eliminate cultural and traditional conduct that reinforces the belief that discriminate against women including stereotyped gender roles.

3) With all the above laws and conventions, Ghana and ALL its citizens are mandated to uphold the stipulations of the law to the latter, irrespective of who is involved.

4) The social, physical and psychological impacts of such an act are widely documented and acknowledged: - girls who marry in childhood receive less education; are vulnerable to the risks of early pregnancy; and begin to take on the adult roles of wives and mothers before their time.

 When girls become brides before they can decide for themselves, this limits their agency and autonomy and seriously undermines their well-being and ability to reach their full potential.

Child brides are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases than are adult women and their pregnancies face higher risks, including death, during delivery. They are often separated from their families and communities and become isolated. Because they usually cannot continue in school, early marriage traps them in ongoing poverty.

Furthermore, NETRIGHT disagrees with and condemns the - utterances and biased justification of the act by members of the Nungua Traditional Council as a practice that has existed for generations.  

This does not give credence to what has occurred and has no basis in our laws.  It just goes to show that several young women who could have had fulfilling lives and be protected have had to be burdened with this practice.  

The time has come for us as a people to respect the laws of the land. Ignorance of the law as we all know is no excuse and, in this case, same applies.

Appeal

NETRIGHT appeals strongly to the Council of Chiefs to:

• Intervene immediately in this blatant and obvious disregard of the laws of the land.

• Act decisively towards protecting and promoting the rights of women and girls in their communities and making communities a safe place for them.

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• Make a clear statement about the importance of respecting the human rights enshrined in the Ghanaian constitution and in this specific case, adherence to the clear and unambiguous provisions of the Children’s Act 1998.

• Call for the annulment of both the betrothal and marriage of Naa Okromo with immediate effect.

NETRIGHT also appeals to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to:

• Institutionalise a system for monitoring the protection of this child against any further infringement on her rights as a child. 

The writer is the Convenor of NETRIGHT

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