Some traditional rulers in the Jirapa District say traditional and customary practices of marrying women in the communities were now gradually dying off.
According to them what was now pertaining in the area was what they termed as “Phone call marriages”, which had taken over the tested customary marriage practices known to the people.
“Our youth are now replacing our customary marriage practices with what ‘we call Phone call marriages’.
“What do we mean when we say phone call marriages? We mean we don’t see the boys in the houses but we only get to know about their activities when we see our teenage girls pregnant, a dilemma social media has brought to us to be contended with”.
“You will never see the boy who is courting your daughter, they use phone calls to chase each other and as such, we are unable to hold the offenders accountable when they denied knowledge of impregnating our daughters”.
“We only bear the consequences of their activities as parents. When everything is cool for them, we are neglected but when things go bad, we are called to bear their brute”.
These were the concern 10 traditional rulers in the Jirapa Paramountcy raised at a day’s training workshop on early child marriage held in Jirapa.
“Most of the child marriages are done through phone calls and WhatsApp and other social media interactions at the blind side of most parents”, the traditional rulers lamented.
The traditional rulers in the Jirapa Traditional Council expressed regret that Jirapa District was fast gaining notoriety in the child marriage practice and blamed the rise of the practice and teenage pregnancies on the misuse of social media by the youth of the area.
The chief also admitted that issues of parental negligence and the appetite for materialism were some of the factors leading to the menace.
The chiefs explained that some parents sometimes had the habit of begging to use the phones of their teenage girls but never asked them where they got the phones from, relating it to poverty and irresponsible parentage.
The traditional rulers vowed that they would not sit aloof and allow such unfortunate practices to go on, saying: “Our girls will have no future and we, as parents and rulers, we will suffer the consequences”.
“In an effort to stem the menace, any person who abducts, elopes or impregnates a girl, less than 18 years would be fined 1,500 Ghana Cedi, a ram and two bottles of schnapps, payable to the traditional rulers, of which the money would be given to the girl to cater for herself.”
In addition, they said all social activities in the communities would now be performed from 1400 hours to 0600 hours and all children less than 18 years would be expected to be indoors by 2000hours.
They said girls who were also in school before they got married and became pregnant would be monitored and after their delivery, they would be sent back to school to continue their education.
Some of the participants urged parents to value the education of their daughters and always report all such cases to the police and avoid the practice of settling them at the family level.
Madam Charity Batuure, Acting Upper West Regional Director of the Department of Gender, said her outfit would continue to give the stakeholders the necessary support through capacity building for them to continue to be campaigners against child marriage in their communities and beyond.
She appealed to traditional authorities to report issues of child marriage to the police without delay because child marriage issues were becoming alarming in the district.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Daniel Nartey, the Jirapa District Police Commander said lack of cooperation from parents was making it difficult to fight the practice in the district.
“Most girls consented to the marriage, while parents prefer to withdraw the cases from the Police and settling them at the family levels.”
The Department of Gender under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) organised the workshop to equip the participants with the relevant knowledge on child marriage issues.
Traditional rulers, queen mothers, religious leaders, and representatives of civil society organisations attended the forum, which was on the theme: “Early child marriage: The role of the traditional/religious and opinion leaders”.