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04 - 11 July 2007 
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Ghanaian Judiciary Breaks Free from Patriarchy

Ghana Parliament's confirmation of the country's new Chief Justice, Georgina Wood, indicates the increasing attempts to free Ghanaian women from the long-running clutches of traditional patriarchy in the 56 ethnic groups that make up the Ghana nation-state.

Until recently, there had been few attempts to free Ghanaian women from patriarchy despite the fact that they are the bedrock of the country’s progress. Not only did the appointment of Justice Wood come on the tail of the criminalization of Female Genital Mutilation by the Parliament of Ghana but earlier, the same legislature had criminalized “trokosy,” a cultural practice among the Ewe group in West Africa – Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic – where teenage girls are enslaved to shrines for sins committed by their parents. The key fertilizer for criminalizing these ancient cultural practices is democracy and its element of human rights. Not only has democracy helped Justice Wood become the First Chief Justice of Ghana but also the emerging African Renaissance.  

Justice Wood is expected to be a legal magician: juggling the elements of indigenous Ghanaian customary values with the orthodox neo-liberal legal systems simultaenously. In the process, she is expected to become  a legal alchemist, mixing the Ghanaian customary laws with the orthodox neo-liberal ones. Justice Wood has to draw from her famed credibility, carefulness, considerations, objectivity and rigorous analyses in her 33 years of judicial experiences, especially her experiences in Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism.

The on-going parliamentary activities to refine some of the inhibitions within the Ghanaian culture give Justice Wood a secured platform. Before her appointment, there have been efforts to raise indigenous Ghanaian customary laws to national level and accord them the long denied respect and confidence they deserve. The late Chief Justice, George Kingsley Acquah had carried out innovative attempts to reconcile Ghana's Judicial Service with the customary “adjudication capacity of chiefs with the administration of justice at the community.”

The international community, as part of the broader international development process is attuned to raising customary laws in the broader development. Germany had earlier funded the Ghana Judiciary Services reforms that aim at bringing traditional legal values on board the mainstream ones.

Justice Acquah’s attempts to reconcile traditional and modern jurisprudence in the overall administration of justice in the country offered traditional rulers, long marginalized in Ghana’s development process, the break to “share their vision and ideas” in the incorporation of traditional legal values in the mainstream judicial services. As Justice Acquah envisioned, “chieftaincy was a potent traditional institution that could play a major role in the peace and development of the nation.”

As attempts are being made to open up the Ghanaian culture, tout the enabling parts, refine the inhibiting aspects, integrate and mix them for the larger progress of Ghana, Justice Wood is expected to use as her legal playground her vast experience, education, global exposure and Ghanaian norms, values and traditions in the broader processes of the global development process in Ghana’s progress.

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
Expo Times Independent Sierra Leone

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