A young Ghanaian woman who fled to South Africa because she feared the much older priest she was forced to marry was about to kill her, has obtained a court order blocking her deportation from South Africa.
Judge Billy Mothle granted an order in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, interdicting the department of home affairs from deporting Dora Oduuta, 33, from South Africa pending the outcome of her review application to set aside the department’s refusal to grant her refugee status.
The department was ordered to issue Oduuta with an asylum seeker permit and was interdicted from further arresting, detaining or deporting her while the review proceedings were pending.
Oduuta, who works as a hairdresser in Mpumalanga, said in court papers she fled from Ghana in 2008 because she was forced to marry a much older priest and religious leader of the Jwira-Pepesa tribe. Her community believes that if a virgin marries a traditional priest, it pacifies the ancestors and cleanses the tribe.
Oduuta said she had seen peers being brutally assaulted and harassed until they succumbed to the practice. She had personally endured assaults, psychological abuse and threats of death because she wanted to go against a long-standing practice of her tribe.
When she arrived in South Africa in 2008 she was issued with an asylum seeker permit.
Earlier this month, she was summoned to the Marabastad refugee office to renew her permit, but was arrested. She was told that her application for asylum had been refused and she was sent to the Lindela repatriation centre in Krugersdorp for deportation.
Oduuta was separated from her three-year-old daughter, who was born in South Africa, and officials refused to release her, saying she was not the mother of the child. She maintained the decision to arrest her had been made in bad faith, was not in the best interests of her child and that the rejection of her asylum application was not justifiable as she faced grave danger if she returned to Ghana.