Participants at a national religious and traditional leaders forum on child marriage have urged chiefs to publicly speak against the practice and institute sanctions against people, who force young girls into marriages.
They argued that chiefs were revered and by standing against child marriages in their communities and instituting sanctions against perpetrators would go a long way to end the practice.
Others also called on churches and mosques to continually preach against child marriages and the need for religious leaders not to officiate child marriages to help end the practice.
The forum, attended by some religious and traditional leaders drawn from the Northern, North East, Savannah, Upper East and Upper West Regions, was held in Tamale by NORSAAC in collaboration with Songtaba and Creating Opportunities for Change.
It was to enhance the role of religious and traditional leaders in banning religious officiating of marriages of people below 18 years.
It formed part of the strengthening national level advocacy to end child marriages in the country and support girls’ sexual and reproductive health rights projects being implemented by Girls Not Brides (GNB) Ghana Partnership with support from AmplifyChange.
Whilst the country’s laws permit people of 18 years and above to marry, some factors including poverty, societal pressure, and traditional practices force especially young girls below 18 years into marriage with consequences for their health and psychological well-being.
According to the 2017/2018 Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, one in every five women aged 20-24 years were married before age 18 years, and one in every 20 women for the same age group, married for the first time before age 15.
The statistics showed that child marriage was highest in Northern, Upper East and Volta Regions, and lowest in Greater Accra, Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo Regions.
Sheik Dr Al-Hussain Zakaria, an Islamic Scholar, who spoke on child marriages from the Islamic religious perspective during the forum, said forced marriages were forbidden in Islam as Islamic marriages were between two consenting adults.
Sheik Dr Zakaria said Prophet Mohammed underscored the need for all Muslims to seek knowledge throughout their lives arguing that “this cannot happen when girls are married-off young” hence, the need to end the practice.
He called for more consultations with Imams and other religious leaders to obey the laws of the country so as not to bless child marriages saying, Imams should demand the ages of brides before blessing their marriages to end child marriages in the country.
Reverend Dr Isaac Issah Wuni, Principal, Northern Ghana Baptist Theological Seminary, Tamale, who spoke on child marriages from the Christian religion perspective, said marriage was to provide companionship and help mate for man.
Rev Dr Issah Wuni said marriage in Christian religion was for mature people, who were prepared, arguing that children, were not mature and prepared to marry.
He expressed the need for parents to monitor their children by supporting their education, which meant that they would be mature and prepared to enter into marriage and contribute economically to support their families.
He also called on all to be good citizens by submitting to the laws of the country by promoting the right age of marriage and not officiate marriages of minors.
Mrs Gertrude Eunice Maasodong, GNB-Gh Chairperson, expressed need for all to do away with bad cultural practices that promoted child marriages to safeguard the interest of girls.