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Ghana: The Asona clan, including languages, geographical locations and whether men are forced to marry their uncle's daughter, age of marriage, reasons for marriage, consequences of refusal and state protection available (2003-2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa
Publication Date 27 May 2005
Citation / Document Symbol GHA100109.E
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ghana: The Asona clan, including languages, geographical locations and whether men are forced to marry their uncle's daughter, age of marriage, reasons for marriage, consequences of refusal and state protection available (2003-2005) , 27 May 2005, GHA100109.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/440ed6ff23.html [accessed 20 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Website Asante.co.uk, which is dedicated to "Asante history, news and literature," (n.d.a.) provides information on the geographical areas covered by the Asona clan of the Asante kingdom, a "polity" of the Akan people (Researcher with the University of Finland 25 May 2005):

The eight [Asante] clans are Oyoko, Bretuo, Agona, Asona, Asenie, Aduana, Ekuona, and Asakyiri. [...] It is said that more people generally, belong to [the Asona] clan than to any other clan. The principal towns are Edweso and Offinso. [...] Other towns of the clan are Ejura, Feyiase, Manso-Nkwanta, Bonwire, Atwima-Agogo, Abrakaso, Taabuom, Beposo, Toase, and Odumase (n.d.b.).

A researcher with the Linguistics Department of the University of Hong Kong confirmed that the Asona were found in all these towns (27 May 2005).

In correspondence to the Research Directorate, a researcher with the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Helsinki and specialist on the Asante provides some information on the areas in which the Asona clan is found:

Lineages of the Asona clan can be found in almost all Akan chiefdoms. The Asona people are the ruling clan in the chiefdoms of Offinso, Ejisu, and Ejura in the Ashanti Region. In addition to that, at least 35 smaller towns in the Ashanti Region are ruled by Asona lineages. The ruling families of Akim Abuakwa, Akuapem, and Kwahu Mpraeso in the Eastern Region also belong to the Asona clan. In the coastal areas, the central region, the town of Mankessim is ruled by an Asona lineage.

The Akan traditions have it that the Asona clan is originally from a place called Adanse Akrofrom in the southern Ashanti Region, from where they have spread all around the Akan country.

Other sources indicated that the Asona clan is present in Berekuso (The Ghanaian Chronicle 24 May 2005), Offinso and Edwenso (Accra Mail. 30 Aug. 2000) and Kyebi (GhanaWeb.com. 3 Oct. 1999).

GhanaWeb.com indicated that "dialects under [the Akan] group include the following: Agona, Akuapem Twi, Akyem, Asante Twi, Brong, Fante, Kwahu and Wasa. This language group covers the present-day Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo, Eastern and Central regions" (Nordic Journal of African Studies 1996). A map indicating the languages spoken in Ghana can be found at the following address: (24 May 2005).

A researcher with the Hong Kong University Department of Linguistics stated that "the language of the Asona people of Ghana is Twi" (27 May 2005).

The researcher with the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Helsinki and specialist on the Asante also provided some background information on the Akan people, of which the Asona clan are part:

Geographical locations and languages spoken

The Akan people live in the coastal and forest areas of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. The Akan language and its dialects are classified under the Tano language family, including Asante (Twi), Fante, and Akuapem, which also have their own distinctive written forms. The social and political organization of all Akan groups is more or less uniform. It is often said that the Akan political order provides a classic example of a chiefdom. The best known of the Akan polities is the kingdom of Asante (Ashanti), which is a union of a number of autonomous chiefdoms under one king, the Asantehene. Every Asante chiefdom is a distinct territorial unit centred on the chief's capital town or village. The chief is elected from a group of candidates eligible by right of membership in a matrilineal descent group in which the office has been vested. He is accompanied by a queen mother and is guided by a council of divisional chiefs or elders who are the representatives of the resident matrilineages of the chiefdom. Together they form a legislative and executive body, and most importantly function as a judicial court. Each chiefdom is composed of several matrilineages that are established on the basis of common matrilineal descent from a known female ancestor.

The matrilineages belong to larger matriclans, which are not localized units and they include member lineages throughout all Akan chiefdoms. The number and names of Akan matriclans vary in different accounts, but the contemporary Asante usually mention the following eight: Oyoko, Bretuo, Asene, Aduana, Ekuona, Asona, Agona, and Asakyiri. All persons belonging to the same clan, irrespective of their place of residence, are considered to be related by blood, or more specifically, to be descendants of a common ancestress.

Matrilateral cross-cousin marriages among the Akan

[...] In a matrilateral cross-cousin marriage a man marries his maternal uncle's daughter (or some other marriageable woman from his uncle's matrilineage). In such a case an uncle is able to make sure that his daughter has a decent husband in his nephew, and since he is also his possible matrilineal successor the inheritance left behind will indirectly benefit his daughter as well. Matrilateral cross-cousin marriages are also practised by the chiefs, who marry the daughter(s) of their predecessors in order to uphold the alliances between the ruling lineage and the other matrilineages in the community. [...]

Many young people see this form of marriage as unattractive because they feel that cross-cousins are more like full siblings than prospective spouses. Therefore it has become rare. Already in a survey conducted in the 1940's only 8 % of all married women were or had once been married to a cross-cousin. However, cross-cousin marriages are still practised, among the chiefs in particular, although in their case the marriages tend to be "ceremonial" in nature and the spouses will not actually live as a couple. The impression that I got is that the young people of the urban areas are likely to marry later in life and they are also less dependent on (but certainly not indifferent to!) the wishes of their parents and uncles, whereas in the villages the marriages tend to follow the traditional pattern more closely.

[...] The constitution of the Republic of Ghana recognizes customary law and usage and thus such marriages are not illegal in Ghana (25 May 2005).

Further to this, the researcher with the Hong Kong University Department of Linguistics added that:

Marriage customs are more or less the same in all the clans of the Asante people. It is forbidden to marry someone from the same clan as you. For instance, an Asona man cannot marry an Asona woman. Note that, among the Asante people, every child automatically belongs to the clan of his/her mother. So, while it is acceptable to marry one's uncle's child (mother's brother), it is unacceptable to marry one's aunt's child (mother's sister). It is totally unacceptable to marry any cousin whatsoever on one's father's side.

Other information on whether men are forced to marry their uncle's daughter, the age of marriage, the reasons for marriage, the consequences of refusal and available state protection was not found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Accra Mail. 30 August 2000. Fred Abrokwa. "Okyehene's Programme Out." [Accessed 20 May 2005]

Asante.co.uk. n.d.a. "Akwaaba!" [Accessed 26 May 2005]
_____. n.d.b. "Abusua and Nton." [Accessed 20 May 2005]

The Ghanaian Chronicle. 24 May 2005. Ivy Benson. "Berekuso Black Stool Case – Court Orders Return of Stool to Rightful Owners." [Accessed 24 May 2005]

GhanaWeb.com. 3 October 1999. "Press Review of Sunday, 3 October 1999." [Accessed 24 May 2005]

Nordic Journal of African Studies [Helsinki]. 1996. Vol. 5 No 2. Bodomo, A. B. "On Language And Development In Africa: The Case of Ghana." [Accessed 26 May 2005]

Researcher with the University of Helsinki [Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology]. 25 May 2005. Correspondence sent by the researcher.

Researcher with the University of Hong Kong [Department of Linguistics]. 27 May 2005. Correspondence sent by the researcher.

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: A professor at the University of Hong Kong did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: AllAfrica.com, Africa-Express, The Ghanaian Times, WNC.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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