Abdulazeez Rahmah writes,
Child marriage, as it is generally known as marrying off any person under the age of 18, in Nigeria is one of the most ravaging, creepy, and difficult issues that cause huge and fundamental setbacks to the country. Despite the evidence that child marriage was more of a cultural than religious practice in early Islamic societies, adherents in Nigeria, most especially in the North, still would hold steadfast to the act and fight any interventions of law that come its way, even as many or strong as they may be. In fact, they are even always ready to raise legal provisions and justify their stand.
To begin, this practice is largely a common one among the female children, a lot of girls have beautiful dreams ahead of them, and are gifted individually with high potential which, if embraced or recognized, would be of great help toward the betterment of themselves and the society they live in. But in Nigeria, a country that has the highest number of child brides in the region of West and Central Africa, these dreams are being cut short because of unscrupulous practice.
According to a research of UNICEF, an estimated 22 million child brides live in Nigeria, and in Niger, where this action prevails the most in the whole of the world, there live an estimated total of 4.1 million of these individuals. Now, going to bed at night, waking up the next day, and then deciding abruptly to engage one’s own girl who is below the age of 18 in a marriage is nothing but a barbaric act, and this is what hugely has been becoming our parents’ priority in the country, most especially in the North.
Chiefly, the reasons for early marriages are researched and found to be caused by several incidents which include; lack of education; traditional, cultural, or religious beliefs; poverty and total or partial discrimination which could largely result from the perceived low status of girls or absolute gender inequality. When the parents and the children are not educated, and their level of exposure is low, then it would become hard for them to be cognizant of the consequences of early marriage, so the prevalence of such an act, in those cases, will resultantly be high. However, going to the second reason which is said to be based on some beliefs. Some parts of the country, some tribes, some cultures, and some people of a major religion believe that when a girl-child has reached the age of 13 or slightly above 13, she explicitly should not be with her parents any longer, they then go on to matchmake her with any available suitor while minding not the age difference.
Looking into poverty as a reason for marrying female children off, the high level of poverty in many homes in Nigeria keep making parents keep sending their daughters into early marriages, then, completely having the perception that her burden is no longer theirs, and the gifts, money or price they receive in return for the act are being taken as a major relief that would gradually, someday, liberate them from their financial deficiencies. This is more or less turning these marriages into a poverty alleviation scheme. A mind-boggling infection that has, indeed, been endemic to the major parts of the country.
Principally, most parents don’t care to think about the consequences of such actions, instead, they only enjoy the initial results. The fact that something “hooge” is, at the end of the day, added to their pockets. They earnestly tend to forget the consequences which may include some very crucial issues like health predicaments. It is an undisputed argument that most girls who are under the age of 18 and are victims of early marriage are likely to have early pregnancies, they then as a result of this go on to experience dangerous complications. Also, girls who give birth before the age of 15 are 5 times more likely to die during childbirth than girls in their 20s. They might, in the course, also be exposed to other diseases like STDs, HIV, and many more.
Domestic violence is also another trauma, a consequence that is faced, experienced by children married off at this very early age. The tender ages make most girls lack fundamental knowledge and mature behavioral habits to live a married life, it also makes them have very little or no knowledge to weather storms and take the home’s responsibilities, and which will definitely result to having issues with their husbands or mothers-in-law, whereas when the child should still be under her parents to learn more about how to handle a home, and if need be, sex education.
At this point, the government, societal leaders, or organizations, be it private or public should really look into this very carefully, they all, at every level, should organize awareness programmes to enlighten the masses about the brutal effects and the harsh consequences that early marriages bring. Likewise, a standard adulthood age should be put in law to totally end child marriages and all the negative effects that it offers. Female children should also be empowered, most often in the rural areas, to let them know they have the right to decide even their own future, as not really all girls are aware of that.
Lastly, targeted approaches to different areas with a high level of prevalence, as all identified in the points above, will surely provide a first-class starting feature towards achieving Nigeria’s new national strategy to end child marriage. This also, against that backdrop, will make female children have memorable childhoods with their parents, have enough of both formal and home education, and spend more time with them, and also learn more from them before they eventually get married. No option is always worth sending a girl-child to early marriage. None whatsoever.