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06.03.2005 Regional News

Church marriages are in themselves not under ordinance

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Ho, March 6, GNA - Miss Gloria Ofori-Buadu, president of the Women's Assistance and Business Association (WABA) has cautioned that church supervised marriages in themselves do not constitute marriages under the ordinance.

She gave this caution at a two-day workshop for 40 women leaders in the Volta Region as part of WABA's countrywide education of women leaders on "Democracy and Human Rights".

Miss Ofori-Buadu explained that, marriage under the ordinance could be contracted between only the prospective spouses without the involvement of their extended family members but must be on registered premises such as the Registrar-General's Department or the Courts and must be supervised by officials authorised to do so. She explained also that in the case of churches, their premises must be registered and the presiding ministers must also be licensed to effect such marriages.

She further said that, couples in church supervised marriages would have to inform such presiding ministers as to the status of spousal relationship they wanted to enter into.

Miss Ofori-Buadu therefore, advised women to guard against being blinded by love and assurances by their suitors to rush into marriages that do not provide the type of legal protections they expect in marriage.

They should rather exercise patience, due diligence and take advantage of expert advice before getting into such relationships. She explained that customary marriage; marriage under the ordinance and Muslim or Mohammedan marriage are the three main types of legal marriages in Ghana, each of which has its distinct legal character and forms of protection.

Miss Ofori-Boadu said customary marriage is potentially polygamous and involves the consent of the families of both spouses, while marriage under the Ordinance excludes any polygamous relationships and could be contracted between both spouses only, excluding their extended family members.

The Mohammedan or Muslim marriage is also a potentially, polygamous marriage and is limited to four wives at most.

She cautioned that Church sanctioned marriages such as blessings in themselves are not sufficient to provide the type of protection available in marriages contracted under the ordinance.

She said the laws of the country provide for the security of surviving spouses and children even in cases where one spouse dies interstate as provided in the Interstate Succession Law, PNDC Law 1111.

She advised women to secure the registration of their customary marriages with the District Assemblies and that those who witness such registration should be family members on both sides as requires by law as a form of security against the inevitable.

Miss Ofori-Buadu said the laws of Ghana do not make any distinctions between children born outside marriage and in marriage as they are all entitled to benefit from the estate of their deceased parents, especially fathers.

She said children under the laws of Ghana also include adopted children including those adopted by relatives in the extended family.

Miss Leda Limann, of the Africa Legal Aid said there was need for the country's laws to recognise co-habitation of a man and a woman "as man and wife" for several years even though such relationships have not been formalised.

She said such recognition should be considered in the interest of women who find themselves trapped in such relationships most often for the sake of their children and the refusal of their "husbands" to formalise their relationships into marriages.

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