PIONEER AFRICAN WOMEN IN LAW
Sophia Ophelia Adinyira
Supreme Court Judge (Ret.)
By Christine Selikem Lassey
Justice Sophia Ophelia Adinyira is a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana. She was born on the 8th June of 1947 at Cape Coast in Ghana’s Central Region. She is a deeply religious woman who is dedicated to her church, work, and family. She is married and has five children. In 1955, Adinyira started her education at Balobia Primary School in Navrongo in the Upper East Region of Ghana and proceeded to Asamankese Roman Catholic School in 1958. She obtained her Ordinary level certificate at the Fijai Secondary School in the Western Region of Ghana from 1961 to 1966. She then attended Wesley Girls’ High School from 1966 to 1968 for her Advanced level certificate. After her high school education, she smoothly transitioned to the University of Ghana to pursue the LLB program in 1968 and the professional course at the Ghana School of Law. Adinyira was called to the Ghana Bar in 1973.
In 1974, she veered into public service at the Attorney General’s department as an Assistant State Attorney until she was promoted to Principal State Attorney in 1986. Adinyira was appointed as a High Court Judge in 1989 and later promoted to the Court of Appeal in 1999. On the 15th of March 2006, Adinyira was appointed by the sitting President, John Agyekum Kuffuor, to the Supreme Court, where she served for thirteen years until her retirement. Adinyira has also served in diverse capacities in Ghana. She was the chairperson of the National Multisectoral Committee on Child Protection. Her exemplary leadership and admirable traits as a Judge earned her the reputable office of Chairperson of the Board of Judicial Training of Ghana’s Judicial Service. She was also a member of the interview panel on the appointment of Magistrates and Circuit Court Judges of Ghana’s Judicial Service. As a member of the General Legal Council of Ghana, she contributed her rich experience as a Judge to shape Ghana’s legal education and profession.
Adinyira was a bulwark of child protection issues, juvenile justice, human rights, and human trafficking. This propelled her to collaborate with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and UNICEF in drafting a juvenile justice policy for Ghana. Adinyira has also left her footprints in the international sphere by serving as a Judge of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal in New York and Geneva from June 2006 to July 2009. During her active years, she was also a member of the International Association of Women Judges. On the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Ghana, Adinyira received an award from the Ministry of Women and Children to acknowledge her dedication to enhancing the Ghanaian child’s destiny. She was a member of the Supreme Court panel that decided the famous 2013 election petition in Ghana.
She has fueled the wheels of democracy, the rule of law, and justice by her seasoned judgments in landmark cases over the years. Notably, in her valedictory judgment in Centre for Juvenile Delinquency v Ghana Revenue Authority, Adinyira declared that it was illegal to require persons to obtain a Tax Identification Number (TIN) before filing a case in court. This case reiterates the conviction of the Supreme Court to eliminate all bureaucratic procedures that impede access to justice.
Adinyira is an inspiration to women who did not think it was possible to excel in the profession, faith, and family life. She is an ardent member of the Anglican Church and held key positions at the national and international levels. They include Diocesan Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of the Gambia, Moderator of the Staff and Nomination Committee of the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches, and member of the World Council of Churches, Geneva. In 2019, Adinyira became the first female to be installed inlay Cathedral Canon of St. Peter in the Anglican Diocese of Koforidua in Ghana. Adinyira is a versatile woman who has excelled at the bench, bar, and church. Her inspiring achievement in public service is a classic example of patriotism.