Child Marriage in Nigeria
Recently, a 70-year old Northerner reportedly married a 12-year old girl in Niger state. The news was greeted with criticisms and outrage. It is quite shameful that in the eighteenth year of the twenty-first century, Nigeria is recording huge cases of child marriage in the country.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, Nigeria has the largest number of child brides in Africa. In another disappointing statistic, the Country Representative of United Nation Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, Mrs. Comfort Lamptey stated that twenty-three million girls are victims of child marriage in Nigeria. Several surveys conducted has proved that child marriage cases are much higher in the Northern part of the country than in the South.
The North follows Sharia Law, and therefore believe that child marriage is not against the tenets of the Sharia law. Without not being sectional and a religious bigot, child marriage is rampant and prevalent in that part of the country. To make matter worse, a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and former Governor of a state married a 13-year old girl in 2013, and still boldly defended his decision. Truth be told, men, like that, are pedophilia and are not marrying the girl-child because of love.
The major cause of child marriage is epidemic poverty. Many parents give out their young daughters in marriage because of the untold hardship, and abject hunger in the land. Many do not have the financial wherewithal to cater for their children and believe that the “would-be husband” of their girl will be able to cater for their child and relieve them of their supposed responsibility. Many parents see giving their young daughters out for marriage as a great opportunity to get food.
Early marriage has many effects on girls’ health. For instance, the girl-child is vulnerable to sexually-transmitted diseases because their partners are even those who are prone to STDs. The girl is also prone to die during childbirth because most of the reproductive organs have not been fully developed before the period. There are lots of occurrences of young girls dying during childbirth because they are young to be pregnant in the first instance. They are also prone to Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF), which is quite bad.
To drastically reduce child marriage, and curb this menace in our society, the government must invest in education. Education is the fulcrum and key driver for social change. An educated girl-child cannot be easily lured into early marriage. Child marriage is prevalent in the Northern part of the country because of poor education. Millions of children are out-of-school, and they are therefore prone to child marriage.
Nigeria must also work as regards its legal reforms in terms of child marriage. The constitution did not stipulate the minimum age to marry, even though the Child Right Act (2003) set the minimum legal age as 18. Whereas only twenty-three State House of Assemblies out of thirty-six have implemented such. The government must show a serious commitment to ending the child marriage in the country. The government must roll up its sleeves to tame the monster.
Furthermore, non-governmental organizations must continue with their advocacy campaigns in order to ensure child marriage is a thing of the past in the country. All hands must be on desk to nip in the bud.