A Ghanaian citizen, Samuel Ampomah, has called on the Supreme Court to lift the restrictions on marriage under the ordinance and hence allow him to marry more than one wife.
According to him, he’s already married and wants to add another wife, but has no wish to divorce his first wife.
He is praying the court allows him to marry more than one, arguing the restriction on being able to marry multiple wives infringes on his fundamental human rights.
He is also seeking a declaration from the court to impose on the State to amend CAP 127 to respect choices and fundamental human rights to marry more in line with customary and Islamic arrangements of Ghana’s marital laws.
Marriage under the ordinance is governed by the Marriages Act (Cap 127) and is presently the only strict monogamous marriage arrangement under Ghanaian law, with the possibility of a criminal charge of bigamy against a man who adds another wife under the same law.
The Attorney General, in response to his suit, said Ampomah’s submissions do not raise any real or genuine issues of constitutional interpretation such as would invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
“Per his Statement of Case, invoking the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the plaintiff, Samuel Ampomah states inter alia that the effect of Sections 74(1)(b) of CAP 127 and Sections262, 263, 264, and 265(2) of Act 29 constitute a breach of Articles 17(2) and 21(1) ( c) of the Constitution by prohibiting an identifiable section of Ghanaian men from marrying more than one wife if they wish so,” the AG argued.
“Section 74 of CAP 127 is clear, concise, and admits of no ambiguity and that what CAP 127 did was just give legal backing to the areligious principle which has been in existence since time immemorial,”
The AG submitted further, that considering the reliefs sought in the plaintiff’s action, it is clear that this is not a case that calls for interpretation of the Constitution so as to vest the Supreme Court with the appropriate jurisdiction per Article 130(1).
Marriage under the ordinance is essentially distinct from Christian marriage as stated on the RGD website; ‘Marriage under Ordinance is the Civil Union available to any Ghanaian to take advantage of, and despite some confusion, it is entirely secular and not religious(Christian) at all.
The AG additionally submitted that the plaintiff’s assertion that the monogamous nature of Christian Marriages are discriminatory is untenable as it has not been established that Christian marriages are polygamous in nature.
“My Lords, is our humble submission that having taken these characteristics into consideration, CAP 127 is not contradictory to any provision of the Constitution and is neither discriminatory, but rather operates as a means of giving effect to the differences in marriages contracted under the various belief systems existing in Ghana.
“Since CAP 127 gives effect to the different characteristics of the various religions, it cannot possibly be contradictory to Articles 17 and 21 of the 992 Constitution which insists on the freedom of religion.
“It states that the offence of bigamy is a necessary measure to curb unscrupulous behaviour by persons who refuse to adhere to incidents of a marriage contracted under the Ordinance, taking innocent victims along with them,”
The AG ended by stating that “the framers of the Constitution, in their wisdom unambiguously stated in Article 17 that the right to freedom of religion is guaranteed and that there is nothing in the Article that warrants interpretation by the Court and thus the action is borne out of the Plaintiff’s misunderstanding of the law and is obviously an abuse of court process and should be dismissed.”