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Marital Processes And Types Of Marriage

The marriage process itself varies among ethnic groups. Also, the type of marriage consummated by a couple often depends on a host of factors, including their socioeconomic status (e.g., formal education, occupation, income, wealth, place of residence), and their family, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. Ghanaian family law recognizes a plurality of marital forms. Throughout the country, customary law marriages, consensual unions, marriages contracted under Islamic rules, and those contracted under the ordinance (civil or church) are all recognized as legal. Of these four types of marriages, marriage under customary or traditional law accounts for most marriage contracts in the country (Table 2).

Although national-level data on type of marriage are not readily available, evidence from small-scale surveys conducted throughout the country indicate that most marriages in Ghana are the traditional type (Gaisie and de Graft Johnson TABLE 2

Percentage distribution of Ghanaians by form of
marriage contract
  1969a       1992/93b
  Women       Couples  
SOURCE: (a) Gaisie and de Graft Johnson (1976). (b) Couples
data, Oheneba-Sakyi et al (1995).
Form of union  
    Customary only 81.7       69.8
    Ordinance only 0.3       na
    Ordinance/church/Muslim 5.8       18.0
    Mutual consent 11.0       12.2
    Other 0.1       na
    Not reported 1.1       na

1976; Awusabo-Asare 1990; Oheneba-Sakyi et al. 1992; Ardayfio-Schandorf 1995). As indicated in Table 2, although the number of marriages performed under traditional law is declining, they still account for the bulk of all marriages in Ghana. In part, customary law marriages are popular because they are based on traditional norms and beliefs and are often less expensive to contract. Also, unlike marriage under the law, traditional marriage does not have to be monogamous. As a marriage form, the incidence of polygyny varies from somewhere between 20 to 50 percent in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa (Timaues and Reynar 1998). In Ghana during the late 1970s, about one-third of all currently married women were in polygynous unions (Aryee 1985; Gage and Njogu 1994). By the late 1990s, the proportion of women in plural marriages had declined to about 23 percent (Table 3).


Percentage distribution of married Ghanaian women by
their type of union
    Survey and year
  1979a 1988b 1993b 1998b
SOURCE: GDHS (a) Aryee (1995, Table 1). (b) GDHS, 1988–1999.
Monogamous unions
All women 65.4 67.1 72.3 77.3
    Urban residents 68.2 71.4 78.5 84.3
    Rural residents 64.1 65.2 69.3 74.2
Polygamous unions
All women 34.6 32.9 27.7 22.6
    Urban residents 31.8 28.6 21.5 15.7
    Rural residents 35.9 34.7 30.6 25.8

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsGhana - Family Structure, Family Formation, And Family Life, Marriage, Family Formation, And Childbearing