Child Marriage

A Problem in Nigeria/Africa: Child Marriage.

An unreasonable amount of young girls below the age of 18 have been sent off into child marriage by their parents and guardians; being a woman myself and having to only think about the grief and pain these young ladies are going through hurts a lot. In Nigeria, facts say that 43 percent of girls below the age of 15 are sent off into marriage or are in a union. A sad reality that it is, makes me believe the reason for the misfortune is their lack of education. Parents in the north have complained that the poor value in education cannot be seen as an alternative to marriage; they believe there’s no concrete purpose or reason for them to continue their lives as children or at least young adults so, therefore, they marry them off as they’re old enough to bear children which is the sole purpose of marriage.

The future of these girls is hindered due to economic reasons, their religious beliefs and poverty in general; I believe that this is most common in the northern states of Nigeria because they are the most undeveloped parts of the country. It’s difficult to think about, if I was not so privileged and born in such a community, I’ll probably be in such a situation as well. Some of these girls are being sent off into marriage with the aims of securing their family honour and their virginity, seen as a sign of pride.

The Child Rights Act which was passed in 2003, set the minimum age for marriage at 18 years old, although only 23 states have implemented the minimum age, regardless of this, the Constitution does not establish a minimum age for marriage. Major reasons or causes as to why parents of the northern region give their children away at a young age are for one; poverty which is a problem that goes hand in hand with gender inequality in situations such as this. It is clear that the male child is never given up or sacrificed or traded in marriage because, it is seen that the girl child is less valuable, what a tragedy. The parents would rather invest in the male child than the female knowing that the female would later end up in her husband’s house. According to old customs, it is also made fact that the girl’s place belongs in the kitchen. She is made to believe that her purpose in life is to serve her husband and do domestic work for him. Another trivial issue is that of illiteracy; like I have mentioned before, the education system in the northern and southern parts are extremely poor which leaves the parents less than a choice. They cannot rely on the system for their survival and instead trade their children off for marriage in exchange for money or goods.

Child Marriage

The consequences that this grievous reality carries are tragic; female children exposed to early marriage have childbirth to worry about. A fifteen-year-old whether or not she has seen her menstrual period is still very unready for childbirth; she is both physically and mentally unripe to bear another human inside of her. She has forcefully given up her entire childhood for reasons unknown to her. In the course of childbirth, she has also exposed herself to several vaginal diseases literally putting her life at risk and that of the child inside of her. And if this continues to go on; their children will have to suffer the same consequences, leaving them in a cycle that will remain poverty stricken. During the course of their so-called marriages, the female children are extremely bound to suffer depression as well as mental illness. Their spouses most likely care so little if not nothing for them; they suffer domestic violence, sexual harassment and other things beyond my comprehension.

In a country such as Burkina Faso, by the age of 17 they will be given off for marriage while in Sierra Leone, at the very young age of 9.

Young girls are getting their life taken away from them, they have no future only one filled with pain, unwanted sexual experiences and mental scarring episodes. It’s quite upsetting that such issue isn’t highlighted as a major problem. Kids shouldn’t be treated this way, it’s wrong, it’s completely wrong and the point of this article is to put in in your face?

What are we doing about this problem? I know we have NGOs and other collectives trying to stop this but we need to do more, it’s not enough. If you have daughters, think about it? We need to educate the people about how wrong and unethical these things are. Everyone, myself included needs to do more, THIS HAS TO STOP.

In order to shape the community and promote gender equality as well as equal human rights for young girls, some laws need to be implemented, not just made but implemented. Sanctions also need to be imposed to offenders. Besides this, I believe so strongly that these parents need to be ministered to; on a personal level by many of us who are informed on these issues, they need to be addressed and educated on the consequences of forced child marriages and the negative long term effect it will have on their children and societies.

There’s so much going on everyday we shun, so many issues affecting lives of fellow Africans around us. We might not be the cause or know someone personally going through this yet as a journalist I’m drawn to speak on these issues and child marriage is a topic that plagues my mind so much. Talking on this issue is a tiny percent of what we have to do to make sure our kids or future generation doesn’t suffer from such ignorance but this serves as a start, to push the conversation into more minds. By sparking these conversations in the minds of the New Age individuals currently influencing and changing the course of our continent we can construct new ideologies based on this changed perspectives that will influence a better understanding of why ‘Child Marriages’ will not be condoned any longer, this is an african problem.

Adaobi Ajegbo

Journalist and entrepreneur. there's not much to me honestly, I love money and I love to write x.

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