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Friday, 14 September 2018

The Menace of Under-Age Girl Child Marriage in Northern Nigeria

I got inspired to write this article on under-age marriage of girls in Nigeria after watching a movie that was written and directed by Stephanie Okereke Linus, a Nigerian actress. The title of the movie is “DRY.” This movie isn’t that new, it was released in the year 2014, though I happened to see it just this year.

girl child marriage - girliefix blog
Halima - From the movie.

The movie so much spread light on the act of Under-Age Girl Child Marriage in Northern Nigeria. It featured a little girl named Halima who was married out by her parents to a man at the age of 13. She never liked the idea but she was left with no choice – her parents forced her into the marriage. The man already was married to 3 wives, and Halima was the youngest. The man who was way older than her forcefully and violently had se* with her one night after their marriage, and that was how she was disvirgined.

She got pregnant, carried the pregnancy for 9 months; and when it was time for delivery, she had a painful natural birth. Without any professional or clinical service, she was delivered at home by a local birth attendant. The delivery was done without enough care, and with local herbs and unclean environment, she delivered, but the baby didn’t survive. Because of this kind of delivery, she contacted Fistula (Fistula is a common problem for adolescent girls giving birth for the first time, as a result of a certain complication during delivery), which came with symptoms like peeing unaware on the body and psychological stress.

Halima's husband and parents didn’t take the disease in her serious enough, her condition kept growing worse. She started developing body odor which was as a result of her bed-wetting. She was badly humiliated and discriminated by her husband, the other wives, and almost the entire village. Imagine such stigma for a little girl at that age.

To cut the story short, this went on for quite a long time until she eventually died. This is what many young girls in many Northern Nigerian states experience even up till today – denial of childhood, early marriage, and pregnancy in under-age girls. These young girls are very vulnerable to disease such as fistula, HIV and other horrible diseases.

Girl-Child Marriage

girl child not mother - no to early marriage
The marrying-off of girls at a tender age is more like the common tradition or way of life of many Northern-Nigerians especially the tribe known as ‘The Hausas.’ Marrying a female out by her parents or guardians before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights as declared by The Child Rights Act which was passed in the year 2003, but only 23 out of Nigeria’s 36 states have taken concrete steps to implement the minimum age of marriage.

In Nigeria, 43% of girls are married off before their 18th birthday. 17% are married before they turn 15. While data shows a 9% decline in the prevalence of child marriage since 2003, action is needed to prevent thousands of girls from being married in the coming years.

I believe that one of the reasons why these Northern Nigerian parents marry off these girls is for the sake of having MANY grand-children who would help them with labor work, enlarge their family, and for monetary reason. Some young married ladies of ages between 20-24 already have 4-5 children!

Nigerian Tribune recently shared the story of a girl named Wasila who is a mother of six. She narrated how she was forced into early marriage. She said: “At the time, I was in SSS 1 in a Government School because my parents couldn’t afford the fees of a private school. They persuaded and convinced me to marry a man who was of the same age as my father.” Sadly, she explained that she lost her husband when she was 5 months pregnant for her 6th child. She continued: “My husband, who died a natural death at the age of 79, made me a widow. I had to cater for six children and undertake other responsibilities.” She concluded by saying that today there are many girls in her shoes in the country, and that it was time girl-child marriage stopped in the country. The consequences are enormous.

The Consequences of Under-Age Marriage of Girls

Child-marriage denies a young girl of her right to good childhood, isolates her, terminates her education, and puts her at a higher risk of physical, sexual and psychological violence.

Stop Girl Child Marriage – How we can end it.

1. Empowerment of girls with information and skills
2. Providing girls especially those living in rural areas with quality education. Many studies have shown that it is more likely that a girl who marries as a child will come from a community where education for girls is not valued.
3. Educate the parents: some parents from traditional communities believe that child marriage is a way of protecting their daughters; providing for her economically so she will be taken care of, safeguarding her from harassment and sexual violence before she reaches puberty, and preventing premarital sex which is a taboo in many countries across the world, including Nigeria.
4. Economic support for these girls and their families. If you’re capable, you may also consider sponsoring a girl child. This will help girls that are vulnerable to child marriage.
5. Support the legislation against child marriage in every state of Nigeria.

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