The Nigerian girl-child and early marriage.

It’s not just today that some of our parents tell their girl-child that she belongs to her husband’s kitchen and she is created mainly to make babies and maintain a family. Therefore, they don’t think it’s necessary for them to spend much on themselves. This made them withdraw them or limit their education. Some of them don’t even get enrolled in school at all where they can be taught moral values.

However, early marriages or child marriage is a worldwide problem that comes with health and social implications. It is, therefore, defined as the marriage or union between two people in which one or both parties are below the age of 18. Girls as young as nine are being denied of sound education and splendid childhood memories. As soon as they reach puberty, they will be introduced to men old enough to be their father as husbands to marry.

Victims of early marriage are mostly between the ages of nine and 19, which is known as the adolescent age, according to the World Health Organisation. This stage is a crucial stage in the life of a child, especially a girl-child. At that point, she is vulnerable to early marriage and sexual relationships.

Parents often feel that a girl is an economic burden and they start to think that marrying them off is the best option before she becomes mature. Apart from that, some parents marry their girls off because of the taboos and religious sanction against pre-marital sexual relations.

Due to the state of the nation, alongside other factors, the rate of child or early marriage is higher in developing countries.

In Nigeria, 43 percent of girls are married off before the age of 18 while 17 percent before the age of 15, according to a report provided by UNICEF in 2017. Thus, Nigeria is ranked the 11th nation with a high percentage of child marriage.

Also, the prevalence of child marriage varies from region to region with 76 percent in the Northwestern region and as low as 10 percent in the Southwest region. In the northern part of Nigeria, child marriage is seen as a culture. It is believed that girls that marry after the age of 18 can become promiscuous while some believe that marrying their children off is a means of making money because of the bride price and other items they will collect.

To be candid, Nigeria is more of a patriarchal society which means it’s male-dominated. The social, economic and political sectors of the country are mostly dominated by the male gender, making it difficult for girls to aspire for higher positions in the government. As a result of this, their parents prevent them from acquiring secondary or tertiary education because they know getting a well-paid job is strenuous in a setting like ours.Parents often feel that a girl is an economic burden and they start to think that marrying them off is the best option before she becomes mature. Apart from that, some parents marry their girls off because of the taboos and religious sanction against pre-marital sexual relations.Due to the state of the nation, alongside other factors, the rate of child or early marriage is higher in developing countries.In Nigeria, 43 percent of girls are married off before the age of 18 while 17 percent before the age of 15, according to a report provided by UNICEF in 2017. Thus, Nigeria is ranked the 11th nation with a high percentage of child marriage.Also, the prevalence of child marriage varies from region to region with 76 percent in the Northwestern region and as low as 10 percent in the Southwest region. In the northern part of Nigeria, child marriage is seen as a culture. It is believed that girls that marry after the age of 18 can become promiscuous while some believe that marrying their children off is a means of making money because of the bride price and other items they will collect.

However, the ignorance of our parents on the dangers of early marriage is also part of the factors contributing to the problem. They feel marrying them off will relieve them of poverty, not knowing they are neglecting their responsibility as a parent which is to groom their children irrespective of their gender to be great leaders and prominent people. Some believe it’s Sunnah practising child marriage, I must say, they don’t even understand the basis of the religion not to talk of practising it rightly. They are just satisfying themselves and manifesting their personal desires.

The government also has a role it’s playing, they don’t provide for the citizens and all they promise,they don’t fulfill. If poor parents are adequately empowered, they wont go around trading their children for money.

To cut the long story short, the problems these girls face after their marriages are so bad that it even cost some of them their life. Almost all of them face social, psychological, and health problems. Socially, they will be isolated because of low confidence. They won’t be able to meet up with societal standards, because of that their husbands will abandon them and get an educated wife to take around. What of limited education? The victims get limited education and some of them don’t even get a chance to go to school and this puts a limit to their exposure to various career opportunities and vocational developments. All they do is to make babies and breastfeed them.

Furthermore, this so-called early marriage places children at an increased risk of experiencing domestic violence, and exposes them to life-threatening diseases such as obstetric Fistula, malnutrition, premature birth, stillborn, various types of STDs (HIV/AIDS and the rest), psychological trauma and even suicide.

Therefore, addressing the issue of child marriage among teenagers is necessary not only for personal reasons but to attain global goals. Parents, guardians should be educated and enlightened on the dangers of early marriage and also, they should be empowered and catered for so that they won’t make excuse that poverty is responsible for their actions.

The government should also make sure the Child Right Act of 2003 is enforced across the country. Punishment should be meted out to anyone who tries to violate the law and they should be brought to book. This will not only reduce suicide or infant mortality rate but also restore their right to education.

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