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“When tradition clashes with statutes, the law does not allow such a thing’ – Chieftaincy Minister on marriage between teenager and 63-year-old chief priest

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Asamoah Boateng

The Minister for Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs, Stephen Asamoah Boateng has said that the legality or otherwise of the supposed marriage between a teenage girl, Naa Yoomo Ayemuede and the Chief Priest of Nungua, 63-year-old Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII cannot be overlooked.

According to him, in as much as traditional authorities have the right to perform their rites, where such rituals conflict with the laws of the land, the latter must hold sway.

Mr Asamoah Boateng said this when he spoke in an interview on TV3 on April 2, 2024.

“Things are unfolding and we recognize the traditional rites that they are mentioning, but when tradition clashes with statutes, the law does not allow such a thing. If that’s the case then the legal matter must be dealt with. Here is the case there is a minor involved. We’ve even established that the child known to most people as 12 years old, is actually 15. She is still a minor, but there is some uncertainty about her age and we need to get to the bottom of it” he said in reaction to calls by various stakeholders for the traditional authorities who contracted the marriage to be dealt with according to law.

The chieftaincy minister said he is in touch with his colleague ministers whose mandates have a bearing on the issue to resolve it.

“I have managed to locate where she is with my colleague minister designate for Women, Gender and Social Protection. I have also been in touch with my other colleagues, Attorney-General and Interior. We have had a meeting this afternoon. I have taken the next step to discuss this matter with the Nungua Mantse and his elders and also with the Wulomo,” he disclosed.

Asked why he is not condemning the action by the traditional authorities, Mr Asamoah Boateng said, “I am concerned that there is a minor we are dealing with here. My number one job is to secure the welfare and protection of a minor. It is not a condemnation of something I do not understand. My job involves traditional authorities who are part of the development of this country and my job is also to oversee the traditional, customary and all that. So, I cannot join the social media condemnation when I don’t understand facts. So, the first thing I did was to establish the facts and get my colleague ministers to ensure we have inter-ministerial coordination.”

There has been public condemnation of the purported marriage.

However, the office of the overlord of Ga-Dangbe state has explained that the traditional rite is for religious purposes, and the girl will not perform any conjugal obligations to the spiritual head.

According to Nungua Mankralo Tetse Nii Bortey kofi frankwa the celebrant, representing purity, has been helping the chief priest attend to the 99 deities for the past 6 years.

“This woman sitting next to me is the 2nd stool wife to the Gborbu Wulomo. She is over 90yrs. Are they saying the Wulomo will engage in what they are concerned about (sex) with her? It’s merely for traditional purposes and Naa Yoomo Ayemuede is no different. The role she plays is mainly required of a virgin.”

He further clarified that none of her child rights have been violated.

“Her rights have never been violated. there are children whose rites are performed on them immediately at birth and others even in the womb because they are future queens, kings and priests and priestesses. Have their rites been infringed upon?” he quizzed.

Naa Yoomo Ayemuede, has been in the care of older women known as Godmothers for six years, preparing her for adulthood as a queen.

Aawon fifiankon Opobi, one of the Godmothers explained that the traditional rites have never interfered with her academics.

Aawon said “She was in school all week until the weekend when the rites were performed. And she will return to school. We already asked permission from the school. She’s a queen.”

The public is still upset about the significance of the tradition, despite the fact that some Nungua residents deem it harmless.

One resident, madam Julie who shared her opinion said “it’s a tradition and it must be preserved. There’s nothing wrong with it”.

A Senior Lecturer at the Department of Sociology, University of Ghana, Dr Samson Obed Appiah believes that society is dynamic and cultural practices must evolve in line with current trends.

“I heard what the Wulomo said that the girl will not perform conjugal rights to the chief priest, but society is evolving and so in as much as these cultures and traditions have been with the people for long, they must find a way to revolve around the current laws of the country. At what age did the law say a girl can get married?” He noted.

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