Controversy Trails 63-Year-Old Ghanaian Traditional Priest Marriage To 12-Year-Old Girl

An influential traditional priest, Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII, aged 63, has caused an uproar in Ghana by marrying a 12-year-old girl in a customary ceremony held on Saturday.

Despite criticism, community leaders defend the union, saying that people do not understand their customs and traditions.

While the legal minimum marriage age in Ghana is 18 and the prevalence of child marriage has declined, child marriage persists, with 19% of girls marrying before 18 and 5% before 15, according to Girls Not Brides, a global campaigning NGO.

Videos and photos from the elaborate event, attended by dozens, have circulated on social media, sparking widespread condemnation by many Ghanians.

During the ceremony, women speaking in the local language Ga were advising the girl to prepare for marital duties and to use the perfumes they gifted her with to enhance her sexual attractiveness to her husband.

These statements have fueled outrage, as they suggest the marriage is not merely ceremonial. Critics are calling for authorities to annul 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 further explained that the girl commenced the rites to become the priest’s wife six years ago, but the process did not interfere with her education.

The girl is slated to undergo a second customary ceremony to purify her for her new role as the high priest’s wife. This ceremony will also prepare her for marital duties such as childbearing, according to local media reports.

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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 holds a prominent position among the community’s traditional leaders. He conducts rituals on behalf of the community, offers prayers for its welfare, upholds cultural traditions, and presides over traditional ceremonies like the induction of tribal chiefs.

Government officials have not yet addressed the controversial marriage.
While Ghanaian law acknowledges customary marriages, it expressly prohibits child marriages disguised as cultural or traditional practices.

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