63-year-old traditional priest marries 12-year-old

The move has sparked severe criticism in Ghana

Crime Scene

A 63-year-old traditional priest has sparked outrage in Ghana by marrying a 12-year-old girl.

The influential traditional priest, Nuumo Borketey Laweh Tsuru XXXIII, married her in a traditional ceremony held on Saturday.

In a situation that drew criticism, community leaders said people do not understand their customs and traditions.

The legal minimum marriage age in Ghana is 18, and although the occurrence of child marriages has decreased, it still persists.

According to the non-governmental organization Girls Not Brides, 19 percent of girls in the country are married before the age of 18, and 5 percent are married before the age of 15.

Videos and photos of the Saturday event, attended by dozens of community members, have been widely circulated on social media, sparking discussions among many.

During the ceremony, women speaking the local Ga language instructed the girl to dress attractively for her husband.

They could also be heard advising her to be ready for wifely duties and to use the perfumes they gave her to increase her husband's sexual desire.

These statements sparked anger as they seemed to imply that the marriage was not just ceremonial.

Critics have called for the authorities to annul the marriage and investigate Mr. Tsuru.

Leaders of the indigenous Nungua community, to which the girl and the priest belong, have condemned public opposition to the marriage, saying the criticism "stems from ignorance."

Nii Bortey Kofi Frankwa II, the leader of the community, said on Sunday that the girl's role as the priest's wife is "solely a custom and tradition."

He added that the girl began her role as a priest's wife six years ago, but this process did not interfere with her education.

The girl is expected to undergo a second traditional ceremony to prepare her for her new role as the chief priest's wife. The ceremony will also prepare her for marital duties such as childbirth, local media reported.