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By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
One of the development issues expected of the modern Ghanaian/African state is how the state, as a rational entity, juggles openly Ghanaian/African traditional values with modern ones. The on-going African enlightenment movement argues for such, as a way of simultaneously refining the inhibitions within the Ghanaian/African culture and appropriating the enabling aspects for progress.
The traditional chief of Ghana’s Ajumako Solomon, Nana Kweku Dawson, indirectly said this when he advised that “the re-introduction of customs such as puberty rites” will “help check teenage pregnancy and the spread of HIV/AIDS.” It is rightly Ghanaian thinker George Ayittey’s “Africa solution to Africa problems.” Ayittey isn’t saying absolute African solution to absolute problems. There are flexibilities. Ayittey is saying pretty much of Africa’s problems could be solved with African values, especially in a highly globalized world where both the good and the bad values criss-cross borders at ease.
One of the solutions to a globalized disease, HIV/AIDS, as Nana Kweku Dawson observes and as one who has grasp of the traditional and the modern, is the time-tested traditional way. Though it is the same as the global talks of “abstinence” from sex till marriage, in Ghanaian/African tradition, it goes beyond mere sexual asceticism. As a young woman comes of age, traditional puberty rites, set of rituals of social status makeover in traditional Ghanaian/African culture, ceremonies mark her formal entry into adulthood. The most prominent is found among the Krobo (where the puberty rites is called Dipo) and Asante (where the puberty rites is called Bragoro) ethnic groups.
And how is the traditional puberty rites solution to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, a modern medical problem? Though African women represent the gorgeousness, wholesomeness and poise of their societies, and are protected against venality by traditional regulations, at issues is total purity against all that may destroy or corrupt the healthiness of the young woman. As rock of society, African women are expected to be properly trained mothers with good morals to bring up good children and maintain social order and progress.
David Osei-Adu, in an article carried in www.ghanaweb.com, explains that “according to traditional law no woman is allowed to get married without haven gone through the puberty rites and every young woman must remain a virgin prior to this. These laws ensure that young women grow up disciplined enough to control their sexuality and to prevent them from premature motherhood and unwanted babies. So important are these laws that any woman who gets pregnant or breaks her virginity before the rites are performed is sometimes ostracized together with the man responsible for it. On top of that, a heavy fine is imposed on the guilty party after which purification rites are performed to rid the society of the negative repercussions of their actions.”
In today’s Africa, one of the rapidly urbanizing regions in the world, traditional practices such puberty rites are getting low: but deadly modern diseases such as HIV/AIDS are getting high. Equilibrium is needed to save Ghanaian/African society from destroying itself from modern diseases. It is in African tradition itself. Ayittey’s formulae: “African solution to African problem.” And “the re-introduction of customs such as puberty rites” will “help check teenage pregnancy and the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
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