According to Save The Child International, child marriage is common in northern Nigeria, where 78% of girls marry before they turn 18.
No fewer than 473,565 Nigerians have signed for the ban and criminalisation of child marriage in the country.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) 2022 report revealed that 22 million girls between 13 and 17 years already married in Nigeria, making the country the highest number of child brides in West and Central Africa.
This number according to the report represents 40% of all child brides in the two regions.
According to Save The Child International, child marriage is common in northern Nigeria, where 78% of girls marry before they turn 18. In most parts of northern Nigeria, the practice of Islamic law recognises child marriage.
The West and Central Africa regions are home to six of the ten countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage globally – 41% of all global incidences, UNICEF said.
However, a petition, which started on the global change website, change.org, by a civil society group, Never Your Fault, run by three teenage girls, has gained traction online with 473,429 Nigerians already signed up for criminalisation of child marriage in the country.
The girls; Susan Ubogu, Kudirat Abiola and Temitayo Asuni, in the petition they co-signed, noted that the Child Rights Act of 2003 which criminalised marriage contracts involving girls under 18 years contradicted the Nigerian Constitution (1999 as amended) which states that, ‘any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.’
“Due to the fact that this law is not clearly stated, many Nigerians have got away with marrying young girls at any age,” part of the petition read.
The group, therefore, called on lawmakers in the National Assembly to amend the contradicting section of the law and make the constitution clearer on child marriage in Nigeria.
They noted that UNICEF latest report on child marriage put Nigeria as the 11th highest in the world, adding that about 44 per cent of the female Nigerian population got married off before their 18th birthday.
The petition reads, “That is 40 million people. Imagine if we had 40 million more people working towards solving the issues of our country. Child marriage also leads to a number of illnesses for the girl child, ranging from vesicovaginal fistula, sexually transmitted infection, high blood pressure and postpartum depression, amongst others.
“A child as young as 11 can be married off; this leads to numerous complications not only for the child but also for the economy as a whole.
“Sign this petition to ban child marriage in Nigeria and make the constitution clearer and ensure that the law is enforced all over the country. I guarantee you it will change a life.”
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