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Outcry after Ghana traditional priest marries child

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ACCRA: A traditional animist priest in Ghana has sparked a national outcry after marrying a young girl, prompting calls for his arrest.
The 63-year-old priest Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII, also known as Gborbu Wulomo, married the girl in a ceremony on Saturday near the capital Accra.
Her age is in dispute between 12 to 16, but she and her mother were placed under police protection soon after the marriage and Ghana’s attorney general opened an investigation.
“The allegations, if proven, constitute a criminal offence for which all persons involved must face prosecution,” a statement from the attorney general’s office said.
Under Ghanaian law, the legal minimum age for marriage is 18.
Police and officials initially said the girl was 12 or 13, but the traditional authorities involved say she is 16.
“We seem to be unravelling some few things. For instance, the age of 12, which we were made to believe is incorrect. The child is almost 16… still a minor,” Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs Minister Stephen Asamoah Boateng told a local radio station.
Defending his actions, the priest’s spokesperson insisted the marriage was not about sexual relations.
Without giving her age, he said the girl would not be expected to fulfil marital duties until she reaches the legal age of consent, which is 16 in Ghana.
“It’s not a marriage ceremony. There is nothing sexual attached to it. The priest has three customary wives already. It’s a customary role to help the priest with his spiritual duties,” spokesperson Mankralo Shwonotalor told AFP by telephone.
He said her rights had not been infringed and the girl was still attending school.
But public condemnation intensified over the traditional ceremony.
Gender activist and former minister Nana Oye Bampoe Addo said the marriage was illegal.
“The state must act immediately,” she told AFP, saying the cultural practice was incompatible with Ghana’s law and constitution.
“What has just happened is a crime and unlawful.”

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