‘Disturbing’ details about priest, 63, who married girl, 12, emerge

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“Disturbing” new details about the 63-year-old high priest who married a 12-year-old girl in Ghana have emerged after the wedding sparked horror around the world.

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, attended by many in the priest’s community, were shared by a local news channel which led to a public outcry as locals pointed out the “traditional” practice was illegal.

In response to the backlash, the priest’s office issued a statement defending the wedding, claiming those who criticised the marriage “do not understand traditional customs and traditions”, adding the marriage to the girl child was only ceremonious.

Police have since placed under the girl under their protection and have launched an investigation into the “worrying” incident.

More details about the spiritual leader, known as a “Gborbu Wulomo”, have now come to light, with local news outlets claiming the 12-year-old girl was the older man’s fifth wife.

“The girl was reportedly chosen to be the priest’s fifth wife when she was six years of age,” First Post stated.

“As per traditions, the high priest’s wife must be a ‘virgin’. She was also instructed to ‘dress teasingly’ for her husband and advised to be prepared for ‘wifely duties’

“The community leaders say such duties would not be expected for another six years when she would be 18.”

The girl is expected to undergo a second customary ceremony to “purify” her for her new role as the wife of the high priest, a report by the BBC reads.

But global network Girls Not Brides, which campaigns to end child marriage, has condemned the actions of the priest.

“On 30th March 2024 most citizens of Ghana were made aware of a worrying and disturbing incident where news broke that Gborbu Wulomo of Nungua, Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII married a 12-year-old young girl as a spiritual wife at a grand ceremony in conformity to their traditional rite,” a statement reads.

“Child marriage is a violation of human rights that robs young girls of their childhood and prospects, and we must work together to stop the said spiritual marriage of the 63-year Wulomo of Nungua to the 12-year-old.”

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 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 reported a decline in the act in 2020, 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.

The report states Ghana is home to 2 million child brides, representing 19 per cent of all young women married before their 18th birthday, meaning the country still has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world.

Many around the world shared their anger at the wedding online, calling for the “tradition” to be abolished.

“Disgusting and disturbing – how can anyone justify this? Let’s leave child brides in the past where they belong,” one wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“This is child abuse not marriage,” another agreed.

As one lamented: “Disgusting and disturbing. Marriage should be between two consenting adults, not a grown man and a child. Time to update those traditional beliefs!”

Local 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.

No arrests have been made.