Augustina Akoto

Marriage the law and change in Ghana


The nature of marriage in Ghana over the years has been subject to varied internal and external influences. During the colonial period – in line with the principle of indirect rule – it was subject to the imposition of English law on marriage alongside existing customary and Islamic law. This plural legal regime in the form of The Marriage Ordinance 1884 (as amended); Customary law and Islamic law in the form of the Marriage of Mohammedans Ordinance 1906 (as amended) determined the legal formalities regarding marriage and the nature of these marriages. This plural system has on occasion resulted in the courts having to step in and decide which regime a marriage fell under; and as a consequence, determining the remedies available in relation to divorce, ancillary relief and inheritance to name but a few. However, the law is not necessarily a reflection of practice. For example, under the Marriage of Mohammedans Ordinance 1906 a marriage would not be recognised as an Islamic marriage unless registered as per the ordinance. In reality very few marriages were/are registered – which though problematic for the legal system, is not an issue for the populace as a whole. This paper will examine the history of marriage laws in Ghana and how they shaped (or did not) attitudes towards polygamy, child marriage and divorce in particular.


Augustina Akoto is a Senior Lecturer in Law based at the University of East London and Course Leader for the LL.B Law and International Relations degree. She teaches English Legal System, Tort Law and Introduction to Legal Method and Family Law. Her research interests lie in African family law, gender, legal pluralism and Ethnic Minorities and the Law.