Home » Spousal Property Rights Bill: Ghana’s Parliament Urged to Act Now 

Spousal Property Rights Bill: Ghana’s Parliament Urged to Act Now 

by Victor Adetimilehin

Ghana’s Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has called on the lawmakers to pass the long-awaited Property Rights of Spouses Bill, which aims to protect the rights of married couples in the event of divorce or separation. The bill, which has been pending for over a decade, would provide a clear and fair framework for the distribution of property acquired during marriage, regardless of the type of marriage.

According to the minister, who is also the Majority Leader, the current situation is unsatisfactory and uncertain, as the courts have to rely on judicial precedents and discretion to decide on spousal property rights. He said this often left out those in polygamous marriages, which are common in some parts of the country. He also said that the bill would fulfill the constitutional mandate of Parliament to enact legislation regulating the property rights of spouses, as stipulated in Article 22(2) of the 1992 Constitution.

The minister made these remarks at an engagement with the core leadership of Parliament and the Queen Mothers Association in Ghana, a group of traditional female leaders who advocate for women’s rights and welfare. The event, which was organized by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, was themed: “Revisiting the Property Rights of Spouses Bill of Ghana”. The purpose was to solicit the support and commitment of the parliamentary leadership to expedite the passage of the bill when it is re-laid in the next session.

Based on a report by  Daily Graphic, the minister cited some statistics from the 2021 Housing and Population Census to illustrate the urgency of the bill. He said that out of the 8.4 million married Ghanaians, 6.7 million had not registered their marriages, and only 1.6 million had done so. He also said that over 950,000 marriages in Ghana were currently divorced or separated, with 553,065 marriages dissolved and 405,090 separated. He said these figures showed the need for a law that would ensure that spouses, especially women, were not deprived of their fair share of property after marriage breakdown.

The minister acknowledged that the passage of the Land Act 2020, which contains some provisions on spousal rights to property, was a commendable step, but he said it was not enough to address the complex and diverse issues of spousal property rights in Ghana. He said the bill that was presented to Parliament in 2009 and 2013, but failed to pass, had more comprehensive and beneficial provisions that would cater for the different types of marriages and cultural practices in the country.

The Minority Chief Whip and MP for Asawase, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, who also spoke at the event, agreed that the bill was necessary and overdue, but he cautioned that it would face some challenges due to the differences in cultures, ethnicities, religions and marital systems in Ghana. He said the bill would have to accommodate these differences and ensure that it did not infringe on the rights and customs of any group. He suggested that the bill should be subjected to extensive consultations and sensitization to ensure that it gained the acceptance and support of the public.

The President of the Queen Mothers Association in Ghana, Nana Otubea, expressed her concern about the plight of many women who were thrown out of their marital homes or denied their rightful property when their husbands died or divorced them. She said the bill would protect the dignity and livelihood of such women and prevent them from falling into poverty and destitution. She urged Parliament to pass the bill as soon as possible and give hope to the millions of married women in Ghana.

The Property Rights of Spouses Bill, if passed, would be a landmark legislation that would promote gender equality, social justice and human rights in Ghana. It would also contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment. It is hoped that Parliament will act swiftly and responsibly to pass the bill and make it a reality for the people of Ghana.

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