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21.03.2008 Social News

J.H.S. GIRL IN FORCED MARRIAGE

By Kingsley E. Hope, Kumasi - newtimesonline.com

A 17-year-old girl’s dream of completing junior high school in just a couple of weeks, is unlikely to materialise as her parents are determined to force her into marriage.

The girl (named withheld), is a final year pupil of the Nasru-Deen Junior High School at Akrom, a Kumasi suburb, who is desirous of writing this year’s Basic School Certificate Examination (BECE) which starts on April 21.

However, not even the plea of the school’s authorities to her parents to allow her write the BECE could change their mind as they have already fixed this Friday, March 21, for the marriage ceremony.

Speaking to the Times here on Monday, Mr Darkwa Frimpong, the girl’s teacher, said the school authorities made desperate attempts to intervene in the matter but to no avail.

'We have even discussed the issue with the Islamic Educational Unit of the Ghana Education Service but nothing seems to work,' he said. The teacher said though the girl’s classmates had begun the mock examination in preparation for the BECE, she, for the past two weeks had not reported at school.

Three of her colleagues, speaking to the Times appealed to authorities concerned to intervene to enable their mate to write the BECE at least to obtain her basic education certificate.

Mr Abubakari, the girl’s father, told the Times in an interview that it was not a forced marriage since the girl was interested in the marriage and wondered why people should make noise about it.

'We the parents sent her to school and if we want her to marry what is the big deal?' he asked.

He said the arrangements for the marriage started a long time ago with the consent of the girl.

When the Kumasi Metropolitan Director of Education, Joseph Onyinah, was contacted, he said the issue had not been brought to his notice but assured that the necessary actions would be taken to make sure the right thing was done.

He said it was not proper for the parents to force the girl into marriage, especially when she was about to write her examinations.

The Kumasi office of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) also opposed the development.

The principal investigator, Joseph Maxwell Apiagyei, told the Times that the commission would liaise with the police to ensure that the fundamental rights of the girl were respected.

Quoting Section 14, sub-section one and two, of the Children’s Act 560, Mr Apiagyei said: 'No one shall force a child to be bethrothed or be subject of daily transaction to be married.'

Any person who contravenes the provision of the sub-parts, he said, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding GH¢500 or one year imprisonment, or to both.

When this reporter attempted seeing the girl yesterday at her home, her uncle told him he could not meet her because her fingers, palm and feet were covered in lele (special herbs) as part of preparations towards her marriage and she was obliged to stay indoors.

Inspector Irene Oppong of DOVVSU, Accra, commenting on the matter, said the parents’ decision infringes on the rights of the girl.

She quoted Act 554, 1998 Section 109 on compulsion of marriages which states that whoever by duress causes a person to marry against his or her wish, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.

'It is a crime and whoever is giving the girl in marriage can be prosecuted under the act,' she said.

The Children’s Act, she pointed out defines a child to be any person under the age of 18 and cautioned that if the marriage goes ahead and the man sleeps with her against her will, he could be charged with rape which attracts five to 20 years imprisonment.

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