14 DECEMBER 2018
On Monday this week, Nigerian media reported that a man in his 70s had married a 15 year old girl in Niger State. Photos of the couple, posted on social media, have since sparked outrage across the country.
The man is believed to be a philanthropist, known locally as “Chanji” because he frequently divorces and changes wives.
No details about the bride, other than her age, are yet available.
Marriage robs girls of their rights
Speaking in condemnation of the marriage, Hussaini Abdu, Country Director for the child rights organisation in Nigeria, said “Child marriage has a devastating impact on children’s lives, particularly on the lives of girls. It not only robs them of their rights, but also of their childhoods. A girl who is married before the age of 18 is more likely to drop out of school, to become a child mother, to die during pregnancy or childbirth and to be trapped in a lifetime of poverty.
Unequal power relations
“When there is such a vast age gap between a bride and groom as there is in this particular case, it is very clear to see how unequal the power relations are. Girls in Nigeria are already treated as second class citizens, but when they are trapped in a marriage they never wanted, it is even more difficult for them to get their voices heard. Their hopes and dreams are limited as soon as they start their new lives, they are often cut off from family and friends and they are highly likely to face domestic and sexual violence.”
“Disgracefully, in Nigeria, there is no minimum age of marriage, so this practice continues unabated. 43 per cent of girls are married off before their 18th birthday, condemning them to a life they never wanted. It is a gross violation of their fundamental human rights and there are absolutely no circumstances under which it should be acceptable. The government of Nigeria must do more to combat this practice, to protect girls and to enable them to live their lives freely, as equals to boys and men.”