Article 272(c) of the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution of Ghana imposes an obligation on the National House of Chiefs to “undertake an evaluation of traditional customs and usages with a view to eliminating those customs and usages that are socially harmful”.
The goal of the study was therefore to investigate the nature and extent of harmful traditional practices in the three northern regions, and to identify interventions needed to mitigate the adverse effect of such practices and belief on the rights of persons affected.
Alhaji Amidu Sulemana, Upper West Regional Minister addressing a day’s validation workshop in Wa commended the initiative to end these practices considering the negative impact on women and children in particular.
He said it is constitutional to examine the laws of the nation periodically to align traditional practices with the constitution as it is stipulated in the 1992 Constitution under Article 26 (2) that “All customary practices which dehumanise or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person are prohibited”.
He said Article 39 (2) states that “The State shall ensure that appropriate customary and cultural values are adopted and developed as an integral part of the growing needs of the society as a whole, and in particular that traditional practices which are injurious to health and wellbeing of the person are abolished”.
The Regional Minister added that the Chieftaincy Act, 2008, Act 759 Section 50 makes room for Traditional Councils to modify or assimilate customary law into common law.
The Act specifically says, “Where a Traditional Council determines that the customary law which is in force within its area is uncertain or consider it desirable that it should be modified or assimilated by the common law, the council shall make representation on the matter to the House of Chiefs in the Region”.
Alhaji Sulemana said the laws clearly point out that traditional authorities have the capacity to change customs and traditions that were inimical or harmful to the citizenry.
He said the negative impact of FGM, elopement, child betrothal, widowhood rites and witchcraft among others are worrisome and have dire repercussions on the future of victims.
“The phenomenon impacts negatively on livelihoods and security of most communities despite the many interventions by the government and our development partners”, he said.
Naa Dr Puoure Puobe Chiir VII, Paramount Chief of Nandom and President of the Upper West Regional House of Chiefs in a speech read on his behalf commended National House of Chiefs, the MCTA and USAID for collaborating to carry out this mandatory project.
He said there are Acts, Legislative Instruments, Chieftaincy Instruments and other regulations, governing the administration of the institution.
This has therefore made it prudent for traditional authorities to deliberate and appropriately seek a way forward to possibly implement by-laws in their traditional areas to eliminate harmful traditional practices that contravene the basic law of the country, the constitution, he noted.
He appealed to USAID to support the National House of Chiefs’ Chieftaincy Research Project on lines of succession and Regional House of Chiefs to adjudicate on chieftaincy cases before judicial committees.