12-year-old girl who married priest, 63, taken into police protection

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A 12-year-old girl has been placed under police protection in Ghana after it emerged she had been married to a 63-year-old traditional high priest.

Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII, a spiritual leader in the Nungua area of the capital, Accra, wed the unidentified child in a huge ceremony on Saturday.

Footage of the nuptials were shared by a local news channel and showed the young girl in a simple white dress and a matching headpiece.

Her new “husband” was also seen placing a green wreath on her head.

Images of the wedding ceremony, which were attended by many in the priest’s community, triggered a public outcry by many Ghanaians who pointed out the practice was illegal.

Police were quick to respond, revealing the child has since been placed under their protection, the BBC reports.

In Ghana, the legal minimum age to get married is 18, but the West African country has a complex history with the harmful traditional practice (HTP) according to the FXB Centre for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.

Child marriage was explicitly criminalised in Ghana as part of the Children’s Act of 1998.

UNICEF has reported a decline in the act, but notes it is difficult to track due to an absence of birth certificates in some areas and difficulty in proving if a girl is underage.

Recent stats suggest the country still has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world, with one-in-four girl’s being forced into the practice.

Police are now investigating the incident, with many locals praising their quick action.

The office of the influential priest has defended the marriage, saying it was only ceremonial, Yahoo News reported.

They further claimed the girl “had been prepared for this role since the age of six” without hindering her education, according to a local news outlet.

Police have tried to reassure the concerned public, stating contact has also been made with the government’s children’s minister and the social welfare department to ensure the 12-year-old gets the necessary support.

But the footage, which reportedly showed women telling the girl to dress teasingly for her husband in their local language Ga, has concerned many.

Local journalist Zubaida Afua Mabuno Ismail has called out claims the marriage will not interfere with the girl’s education.

“The argument here isn’t about her not being in school, which we’ve not established yet. We say that SHE’S A CHILD NOT A BRIDE,” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

As a spiritual leader, the priest – known as a “Gborbu Wulomo” – performs sacrifices on behalf of the community, prays for their protection, enforces cultural practices and leads traditional rites.