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General News Fri, 29 Jan 1999

Court can dissolve customary marriages - dean

Ho (Volta Region) Jan 28, - Prof Akua Kuenyehia, dean of the faculty of law of the University of Ghana, Legon, has said customary marriages can be dissolved by the courts with the necessary reliefs like marriages contracted under the ordinance. Ordinance marriage can however not be dissolved customarily. Prof. Kuenyehia was speaking on "divorce and matrimonial causes", at a three-day workshop at Ho for about 30 legal literacy volunteers in the Volta region. The workshop is under the auspices of the Netherlands Development Organisation and the Ghana branch of women in law and development. She said customary dissolution of marriages is hardly followed by the enforcement of the reliefs prescribed adding that the courts will only grant divorce when a couple cannot be reconciled. On grounds for divorce, the university don mentioned infidelity, impotence, inability of the couples to have children and violence such as excessive jealousy, withholding of financial support and desertion. Desertion can occur even when couples live together but do not talk to each other, Prof Kuenyehia said. Prof Kuenyehia explained that desertion for two continuous years is enough period to seek divorce, but pointed out that this will require the consent of both parties. Desertion for five continuous years, however does not require the consent of the other party before the marriage can be dissolved, she said. The Law Professor stated that once divorce proceedings begin, properties acquired during the marriage come under the protection of the court and cannot be disposed off. She explained that the apportioning of properties by the courts in Ghana is however not automatic, as the one seeking the divorce will have to prove that the properties were jointly acquired. Prof Kuenyehia advised women not to succumb to intimidation by their husbands during strained relations or they would lose their marriage rights . She asked advocates of women's rights to point out the wrongs of women because women are as equally involved as men in infringing the rights of others. Other topics to be treated at the workshop are sexual offences, administration of estates, the children's bill and constitutional rights relating to women. GRi...

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