The Epidemic of Child Marriage in Nigeria

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In my community, if a parent allows their female child to reach the age of 15 in the house, they are seen as irresponsible and their children will be insulted. At 15, a single girl is considered a disappointment because all of her friends are married. No man in the village will want to marry her…you will see a 12-year-old who already has a baby and is tied down by many responsibilities.

This is an excerpt from Maimuna’s story. Maimuma was lucky to beat the system, unfortunately, many other young children are not.

Child marriage is a union between two parties where one party is younger than eighteen. Girls are more affected by this horrible culture. ICRW reports that one out of three girls are married before the age of eighteen and one in nine are married before the age of 15.

A publication by UNICEF and UNIPA states that the prevalence of child marriage in West and Central Africa is 41 per cent, meaning that four out of ten girls and young women were married before the age of 18. Nigeria has the highest number of child brides with an estimated 22 million child brides living in Nigeria.

This means 22 million children in Nigeria got married before they could properly mature physically and mentally. They were not old enough to be wives.

The major causes of child marriages are poverty and lack of education. Many families believe the way out of poverty for a lady is marriage. From a young age, She is taught to dream and work towards marriage and if a girl is not married, she is victimized and looked down upon like she has failed herself and her family.

Some people believe that child marriage reduces promiscuity and as a result,  prevents STDs. Some others believe that child marriage gives the bride a better chance at having more children. These are false conceptions as there are no benefits of child marriage. Rather it has so many effects on the child. Research shows that child brides are more likely to contract HIV and some other STDs than unmarried people.

Furthermore, victims of child marriages face many complications during childbirth. According to the UN, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death for girls aged 15-19 years in developing countries.

Child Marriages are very devastating as victims are often secluded from their peers and are made to go through a lot of sexual molestation, physical assault and mental health issues. It never ends happily; it has been described as a death sentence.

Child Marriage is repugnant, sadly, it happens in all parts of the world.

This gruesome practice is a barrier to female empowerment as it halts education and reduces economic opportunities available to victims. For every child marriage, a potential is likely buried and a dream, killed.

Child marriage often leads to a cycle of poverty as most times, the victim, if lucky enough to make it out alive, end up helpless and with the burden of a child to bear.

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