Ending Child Marriage | Independent Newspapers Limited
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 Ending Child Marriage

Posted: Jul 22, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


Recently, at a media briefing in Abuja to commemorate the 2016 World Population Day themed; “Investing In Teenage Girls”, organised by National Population Commission (NPC), Senator Aisha Jummai, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, stated the federal government’s intention to launch a national campaign that would put an end to the practice of early marriage in Nigeria.

According to the Minister who was represented by Mrs Georgete Azogu, the Director, Child Development in the ministry, “We know that history of early marriage is violent against girl child because it is depriving children their right to aspire high, the right to develop, the right to contribute effectively to the nation building.”

This Newspaper agrees with the minister and calls on the government to act now.Though Nigeria was among 158 countries worldwide that adopted 18years as the minimum legal marriageable age in 2010, many girls well below the age are still being given out to suitors without true consent. This heinous child abuse is fuelled by gender inequality, poverty, traditions and insecurity.

Globally, the rates of child marriage are gradually declining but progress is not fast enough. Presently in the country, the practice exposes and subjects the youngsters to the risk of developing vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF). This is a condition where a fistulous tract extends between the bladder and the vagina as a result of prolonged and traumatic child birth. This deprives the girl child of her right to aspire to her full potential as human being and predisposes the child to another cycle of emotional torture and poverty, as she can never attain any position of significance or be empowered to sustain herself or children if the need arises.

She also has a higher risk of having still born babies or losing her life during childbirth. The practice also makes her vulnerable to being infected with sexually transmitted diseases, as too often, she finds herself in a polygamous marriage. Being a minor, she is unprotected in her husband’s family and usually is a victim of sexual and domestic violence.

It is definitely not a bad idea to seek protection for the girl-child but the initiative by the federal government should go beyond the campaign. Indeed there should be effective legal instrument that will further strengthen the right and protection of the girl-child. The government equally needs to develop a national action plan to end child marriage. And this should include civil societies and all stakeholders.

This is the time for all state governments to domesticate several international human rights agreements that protect children from child marriage, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Convention of Eradication of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990) and the First African Girls’ Summit on Ending Child Marriage in Africa held in Lusaka, Zambia in 2015. All these Declarations call for protection for the rights of children from all forms of exploitation, designation of child marriage as a harmful practice, free and full consent of both parties to marriage, and a minimum marriageable age of 18 years.

We call upon Government to be faithful to the Maputo Protocol by mounting a heavy campaign about the ills of giving out an under aged child in marriage, putting structures in place to ensure that when the ban is placed, there will be the legal framework to prosecute offenders and having places of shelter that will give succour to girl brides.