Outrage in Ghana after traditional priest (63) marries a young girl (12)

Nungua, Ghana – A 63-year-old traditional Ghanaian priest has married a 12-year-old girl in a customary celebration. The marriage has sparked anger across Ghana, with many reactions calling for immediate action. However, local leaders have come to the defence of the priest and the tradition, asserting that the dismayed reactions are based on ignorance and misunderstanding of the local customs and traditions.

Outrage in Ghana after traditional priest (63) marries a young girl (12)
Nicky Loyd via Getty Images, June 19th, 2023


Manouk Driessens

Women’s Rights Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defence.

On Saturday, March 30th, a traditional Ghanaian priest married a 12-year-old girl in a customary ceremony. Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII, also known as the ‘Gborbu Wulomo’ or high priest, has a great deal of prestige in the Nungua community. As a traditional high priest, he plays an important role in leading traditional rites and enforcing spiritual and cultural norms. According to local media outlets, this marriage is part of his assumption of authority.


Since the story and footage of the ceremony was heavily shared on media platforms, it triggered angry reactions on social media across Ghana and beyond. Ghanaian media personality Nana Aba Anamoah explicitly called out the high priest in a post on X, asserting he is a paedophile marrying a minor. In spite of the public outrage, community leaders have come to the defence of the high priest. 


The Gborbu Wulomo shrine at Nungua voiced support for the 63-year old priest by saying the tradition exists to “ward off other men” and “to ensure no man sexually stains her”. They claim that the girl is still in school and does not live with the man. The husband will wait to be intimate until the girl “reaches the legal age of marriage and childbirth”, the local leaders say. 


Nii Bortey Kofi Frankwa II, a representative for the temple and prominent local leader, emphasised the spiritual significance of the marriage. The girl is “a reincarnated woman who lived over 300 years ago and has returned to ensure that the sacred rituals of one of the deities which have not been performed for years can be done”. 


While local leaders are asserting that the marriage between the priest and the young girl is merely ceremonial, footage circulating on social media seems to imply otherwise. On videos taken at the wedding ceremony, local women are overheard telling the girl to dress teasingly for her husband, be prepared for wifely duties and boost her sexual attractiveness by using the perfume she was gifted.


A guest at the wedding ceremony explained that, according to an old custom, the priest is required to marry a virgin. He selected the girl to be his bride when she was only six years old, and the girl’s union to the priest has been in process for six years. A purification ritual is now to take place, which is meant to empower the girl’s “anticipated responsibilities as a wife”, which includes having children. 


Child marriage is strictly banned in the west African country, as the legal age to get married is 18. While this legal requirement has contributed to the declining prevalence of child marriage, still 19 percent of Ghanaian girls are married before they turn 18, according to the non-governmental organisation “Girls Not Brides”. Ghana recognises customary marriages, but child marriages under the guise of tradition are not allowed. 


The controversy surrounding the marriage has reignited debates about traditions and customs, and the intersection with child protection. In the meantime, Ghanaian police authorities have issued a statement saying that the 12-year old and her mother are under their protection. It is unclear if any action was taken against the priest. 



Sources and further readings:


Aradi, G. & Nunoo, F. (2024, April 1), “Outrage as traditional Ghanaian priest, 63, marries a 12-year-old girl”, BBC. Accessed on April 2nd, 2024 via https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-68692997


Dzinduwa, S. & Khumalo, N. K. (2024, April 1), “Anger in Ghana as 63-year-old priest marries 12-year-old girl amidst customary celebration”, The African Exponent. Accessed on April 2nd, 2024 via https://www.africanexponent.com/anger-in-ghana-as-63-year-old-priest-marries-12-year-old-girl-amidst-customary-celebration/


Mcmanus, L. & Wilkes, J. (2024, April 2), “Shocking marriage practice sees priest, 63, wed girl, 12, he ‘selected’ when she was aged just six”, The Mirror US. Accessed on April 2nd, 2024 via https://www.themirror.com/news/weird-news/shocking-marriage-practice-sees-priest-417034


n.a. (2024, March 31), “63-year-old Gborby Wulomo marries 12-year-old girl in controversial customary marriage at Nungua”, Modern Ghana. Accessed on April 2nd, 2024 via https://www.modernghana.com/news/1302740/63-year-old-gborbu-wulomo-marries-12-year-old-girl.html


n.a. (2024, March 31), “Public outrage as Nungua Gborbu Wulomo, 63, marries 12-year-old”, Ghana Web. Accessed on April 2nd, 2024 via https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Public-outrage-as-Nungua-Gborbu-Wulomo-63-marries-12-year-old-1923963


n.a. (2024, April 2), “’Paedophile marries a minor’ – Nana Aba Anamoah on Nungua Wulormo’s marriage to 12-year-old”, GhanaWeb. Accessed on April 2nd, 2024 via https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/entertainment/Paedophile-marries-a-minor-Nana-Aba-Anamoah-on-Nungua-Wulormo-s-marriage-to-12-year-old-1924121


Rigg, D. (2024, April 1), “Girl, 12, told to ‘dress teasingly” as she’s forced to marry 63-year-old priest”, Metro UK. Accessed on April 2nd, 2024 via https://metro.co.uk/2024/04/01/girl-12-told-dress-teasingly-forced-marry-63-year-old-priest-20569290/