Arrest, prosecute Gborbu Wulomo over child marriage-Xavier Sosu petitions Police

Mr Francis-Xavier Kojo Sosu, a Human Rights Lawyer and activist has petitioned the Criminal and Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service to arrest, investigate and prosecute Gborbu Wulomo over child marriage.

‘I respectfully crave your indulgence and pray that you exercise your powers of arrest, investigations, including potential defilement and prosecution in the defence and protection of this innocent child,’ he said. 

Some customary rites performed for Nuumo Borketey Laweh XXXIII, 63-year-old Gborbu Wulomo, and a minor received widespread disapproval and backlash after videos and pictures of the ceremony appeared online.

Some human rights institutions and individuals have also called for the arrest and prosecution of the Wulomo.

The ceremony occurred on Saturday, March 30, 2024, at Nungua.

Meanwhile, the Traditional Authorities in Nungua have defended the act explaining that the Gborbu Wulomo temple required a girl who had not had sexual relations to attend to some deities, hence the choi
ce of the minor.

The authorities said the marriage was to the deity and not the 63-yeae-old Gborbu Wulomo.

The Police have placed the girl and her mother under protection and are working with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection and the Department of Social Welfare to provide her with the necessary support while the matter is being investigated.

Mr Sosu in his petition copied the Inspector General of Police, Head of DOVSU, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and Gender Committee of Parliament said the conduct of the Wulomo constituted a breach of both local and international laws on childcare and protection and the said conduct was criminal.

He said Ghana was signatory to several international conventions that abhorred child betrothals and marriages.

‘In particular, the petitioner request that you avert your mind to Article 16(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that ‘Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the inte
nding spouses.”

‘Further, Article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) states that women should have the same right as men to ‘freely choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent’, and that the ‘betrothal and marriage of a child shall have no legal effect and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage.”

Mr Sosu also the Member of Parliament of Madina said beyond the realm of International Law, Ghana had taken further steps to criminalise Child Marriages and Betrothals in all its ramifications, adding that, Article 28 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution defined a child as a ‘person below the age of eighteen years.’

He said in the spirit of Article 28 every child and young person must receive special protection against exposure to physical and moral hazards.

The Human Rights Lawyer said the marriage between the Wulomo and the minor was illegal, null and void because b
y law a child under 18 did not have capacity to enter marriage.

He said notwithstanding the fact that traditional religious arguments were being made in support of the said illegality, the Constitution was clear in Article 26 with respect to the limitations of traditions and customs.

‘For the purposes of clarity Article 26 (1) provides as follows ‘Every person is entitled to enjoy, practise, profess, maintain and promote any culture, language, tradition or religion subject to the provisions of this Constitution.”

‘It provides further in Article 26(2) that ‘All customary practices which dehumanise or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person are prohibited.’ It is my respectful view that the customary practice being referred to are unconstitutional and not backed by the laws of Ghana.’

Mr Sosu said Section 14 of Ghana’s Children’s Act,1998 (Act 560) set the legal age limit for marriages in Ghana at 18 years and expressly prohibited child marriage in Ghana.

Section 14 (1) provides ‘N
o person shall force a child (a) to be bethrothed (b) to be subject of a dowry transaction, or (c) to be married.’

Section 15 of Ghana’s Children’s Act,1998 (Act 560) provides for penalties for violation of the laws to include fine, imprisonment or both.

‘I wish to state that, in furtherance of the above, Section 109 of the Criminal Offences Act (Act 29) criminalises compulsion of marriages. It states that ‘whoever by duress causes a person to marry against his/her will, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and the punishment is a fine or imprisonment of up to three years’. It goes without saying that a child has no legal capacity to grant consent in such instances.’

‘In the circumstance therefore, it appears that a clear act of illegality and a careless abuse of the right of an innocent Ghanaian child has been perpetuated in the full glare of the Public,’ he said.

Source: Ghana News Agency