If Nelson Abudu Baani, a Ghanaian Member of Parliament had had his way I would have been stoned to death a number of years ago for cheating on my (now ex) husband. During a parliamentary discussion on the proposed Intestate Succession Bill, the not so honourable MP proposed that members of the house reject the bill because in his words,

“…Some of these women are alomo gyatas in their houses. So if maybe a woman that I married brings me bastard, what is the offences(sic) for those type of women. What do we…what type of punishment do you give to them? That is why I like to say that unless this clause is added, punishment for women who are not faithful, we should not adopt this…” (Audio transcribed from MyJoyOnline News)

The above is a verbatim quotation of our learned MP Nelson Abudu Baani.

According to a paper freely available online by LAWA (Ghana) Alumnae Incorporated, the new Intestate Succession Bill for Ghana aims to:

“…remove the anomalies in the present law relating to intestate succession and to provide a uniform intestate succession law that will be applied throughout the country irrespective of inheritance system of the intestate and the type of marriage contracted.”

In plain language, this new bill intends to create a consistent law that can be applied to all people whose spouses die without leaving behind a will. Seeing as Ghana recognizes both customary and legally registered marriages, the new bill would ensure that the law applies to all who got married under one of these systems.

Ghanaian society has changed radically over the years in some ways, and not so much in others. My paternal Great Grand Father had five wives. My Grandfather had two wives, and a number of mistresses and girlfriends. I myself am a product of a polygamous marriage. Ghanaian society does not expect a Ghanaian man to be faithful to his wife (or even wives); but infidelity in women is not tolerated. When I called my (ex) mother in law in an agitated state because I was worried about her son, she said, “Women do not do what you did”. That was my last conversation with her. I guess Baani would see me as one of those alomo gyatas – a wild, untamed woman – and the recipe he proposes for controlling women such as me is death. Of course in the world of Baani there is no such thing as an adulterous man, and even if there were, all said man would need to do even if he committed the foulest of offences against a woman would be to ‘rape and beg’.

OccupyGhana protesters demanding MP Nelson Abudu Baani's resignation
OccupyGhana protesters demanding MP Nelson Abudu Baani’s resignation

“Rape and beg refers to the many powerful delegations sent to intimidate parents, especially mothers of victims of violent sexual abuse. These delegations usually include local elders, traditional rulers, clergy, respected opinion leaders, and even senior members of the family. If the parents still insist on pursuing the matter, they face other obstacles with the legal and law enforcement system till the victims are victimised all over again.” (It is not uncommon in Ghana and a number of African countries for men who have raped young women to marry the women they have raped as a form of restitution.)

The real issue Baani’s inflammatory comments throw off centre stage is that Ghana’s new Intestate Bill proposes a fairer system of inheritance for all. The current Intestate Succession Law (PNDCL 111) passed in 1985 is not fit for purpose nor compliant with international conventions such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to which Ghana is a signatory. For the benefit of people like Baani who are clearly not knowledgeable about such matters, laws such as CEDAW have to be domesticated – and our national laws need to be consistent with the international conventions to which we have signed up.

Currently in Ghana, women whose husbands do not leave wills are often at the mercy of customary laws and traditions which differ from region to region. Often widows are left disenfranchised when their spouses die; stories abound of women (and sometimes children) being driven away from their marital homes by extended family members who come to claim the possessions of the dead spouse. Clearly men like Baani benefit from this kind of unfair system. In an interview with Joy FM, one of Ghana’s leading radio stations he stated in Twi:

“…the law doesn’t favour men. Me for example it doesn’t favour me”.

Ghanaians on social media (at least the ones I follow) have responded to Baani’s proposal with the scorn that it deserves. The writer Malaka has started a petition asking Ghana’s Speaker of Parliament to order Baani to retract and apologise for the statement made on the floor of the house. The Occupy Ghana movement has called for the MP in question to resign. The current Government of Ghana claims to prioritise women’s rights. The President John Mahama appointed a well-known human rights activist Nana Oye Lithur as Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection. This is the time for the Government to prove that they will not tolerate misogyny against Ghanaian women. Men like Baani should not hold office in any of our public institutions. #DownWithBaani.

P.S: If you think the MP Baani should be forced to resign from his office tweet saying so with the hashtag #DownWithBaani