Early child marriage in Nigeria: causes and effect

Early child marriage in Nigeria: causes and effect

Child marriage in Nigeria is one of the most painful and disturbing problems in the country. Usually, it is done in the poor regions, where people force their young children, especially daughters, to get married, quite often to a total stranger. So, what are the reasons for early marriage and its effect on Nigerian children?

Early child marriage in Nigeria

Early marriage in Nigeria: introduction

First of all, if you ask a question if it is legal to force children into marriage, it is actually not legal according to the Child’s Rights Act of 2003, where it is pointed out that the age of consent for a child is 18 years old. Some countries can allow marriages at 16 years old as an exception. However, it does not stop people from arranging marriages for their own children.

In Nigeria, a lot of 10-12-year-old girls, whose reproductive system is not ready for intimate activities and childbirth yet, are forced by their parents into marriage. They are stopped from going to school and getting an education and are exploited for serving their husband and giving birth to children. Considering that they are still children themselves, it is absolutely unacceptable, as it kills their future and entire life, exposing them to adulthood so early.

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Unhealthy marriage practices in Nigeria

According to the official statistics, child marriage rate has been reduced by 9% since 2003, but it is still a problem. Mostly, child marriages are common in third-world countries, and to become a modern and developed country, Nigeria has to get rid of this issue once and for all.

Most of the young girls who are forced into marriage by their parents are completely banned by their parents from going to school. Some of them excelled in studies, so it is safe to say that Nigerian bright young people, who could potentially help develop the country, are shut off, and their potential is destroyed forever.

Usually, there is a large age gap between a girl and her husband, which can subject her to domestic violence and psychological abuse. Not even mentioning the risks that the young girl can meet when she is forced to give birth, the diseases she and the newborn baby can suffer from, and even death of a mother or a child.

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Causes of early marriage in Africa

Young girls

Causes of child marriage in Nigeria

We will analyze some reasons why early child marriage in Nigeria is so common. Surely, there is a background behind this act. So, the main causes of child marriage are:

  • Poverty in the country. Sure, most of the young age marriages happen in the poorer areas, mainly rural ones. We all know that Nigeria is a poor country, and most people who live in the rural areas are struggling to survive. Most parents who earn very little to maintain normal lives and support a young daughter choose to force her into marriage. Girls suffer from it because they often get married against their will at the age of 10 or even younger. Even though boys do not suffer from this problem as much as girls do, the boys whose families are poor usually are forced into child labour and are subjected to other large issues caused by it.
  • Gender inequality. Even if in the urbanized areas with progressive views gender inequality is much less of a problem, there are still rural areas with ancient beliefs. Often, people are convinced that the boy child is a good luck, while the girl child is not, and she can only be used as a future bride.
  • Cultural traditions. Beliefs in different communities can vary. Some of them are based on old religious traditions, and the communities are unwilling to change their lifestyle. As a result of these beliefs, children are getting married really early.
  • Education. The lack of proper education is another reason why people get their children married at a young age. Many people do not have a proper idea about the post-marriage life the child will have to face and the childbirth complications. Also, due to the lack of education people tend to hold onto many unhealthy traditional beliefs.
  • Insecurity. Since the female harassment rate keeps growing, many people are concerned about the future of their daughters. Before she becomes an adult, they arrange her a marriage with someone much older than her, believing that they are giving her into safe hands and ensuring her a trouble-free future.

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Early marriage: Causes, effects, problems, how early is too early?

Early child marriage

Consequences of child marriage in Nigeria

Therefore, child marriage in Nigeria has an inevitable impact on those who are subjected to it, and here are consequences of this kind of marriage for young girls. Some of them were already mentioned above, but here is a more detailed description of them.

  • Early pregnancy. The pregnancy at a very early age is harmful to every girl. The normal age for pregnancy is at least 18-20 years old, and if you get pregnant earlier, there is a high risk that you will have to deal with health issues. Sometimes it is life-threatening both for the mother and the baby, considering that healthcare in the rural areas is not entirely developed.
  • Domestic violence. There are a lot of situations when the future husband and in-laws start blaming the girl for everything after marriage, sometimes even torturing her in a physical way. The child’s psychological health is still not strong, and dealing with the complicated adult life can be too difficult for her to handle. Besides, the violence against her can often result in physical and mental trauma.
  • Illiteracy. Once the girl gets married, the parents stop educating her, believing that she does not need education once she is a wife. This increases the rate of illiteracy among Nigerians and kills so many bright people’s potential. Who knows, maybe they could have played the crucial role in life of Nigeria, if only they got a proper education?

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Discover the truth behind the age of consent in Nigeria

READ ALSO: Gender based violence in Nigeria: why are women still suffering?

Girl with a child

Possible solutions

The statistics tell us that every year in the world about 15 million children between 10 and 12 get married, which means that every two seconds, a young child is married. For combating the statistics, the above causes should be resolved. It will not happen overnight, but there are many programs led by bright Nigerian leaders, the purposes of which are an education for people in rural areas, the battle against female harassment and prejudice against women. Many people use the hashtag #ChildNotBride on social media to show their displeasure and disagreement with the tendency to arrange marriages between children and adults.

It will take a lot of time to get rid of child marriage, but here are some suggestions for fighting this problem gradually:

  • Raising awareness about the issue. More people need to know about the problem and attempt to take action. The rural inhabitants need to be educated more about the consequences that child marriage can cause, and about the harm, it can do to their children.
  • Making the laws stricter. While the laws exist, they are not strict enough. There should be a powerful law against child marriage.
  • Authorities paying attention. The problem should be frequently reported to the authorities who can punish people exploiting children. Maybe all the cases will not be prevented, but if at least some will, this is a victory.
  • Fighting poverty. Of course, poverty is the biggest problem in Nigeria, and many people marry their children to strangers because they need money. Authorities should be taking measures to resolve this issue, and if there is a smaller amount of struggling people in Nigeria, the child marriage rate will decrease too. Problems like female harassment and discrimination should also be addressed, as they play a key part in the early marriage issue.

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Importance of girl child education in Nigeria

Young girl with her children

The 21st century is the age when every person, regardless of age, gender and social status, can do anything and follow their dreams with full support from their family. Sadly, many young girls do not have a voice in the matter – they are raised to believe that they are made for serving their husbands, without a chance to get proper education and profession, when in reality women can be powerful and inspirational, and achieve great things. Their health can be severely damaged by the early pregnancy, especially if there is no proper healthcare around.

Many girls dream of becoming amazing professional, and their dreams are just crashed when they are forcefully married to some man they barely know, who can actually cause harm to them. The young brides are socially disadvantaged since they have no education, no good healthcare provision, no skill of socializing with other people and no future of their own. Early marriage is a huge violation of human rights.

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Failed Marriages: 10 causes of divorce in Nigeria

These beliefs have no place in the modern world and they have to be discouraged. Female education has to be supported and funded by the Nigerian government, and the problem of early child marriage needs to be resolved, at least in small steps.

READ ALSO: Child labour in Nigeria: causes and consequences

Source: Legit.ng

Regina Stets avatar

Regina Stets (SEO writer) Regina has been working as a reporter since 2017. She has written numerous publications on various topics, including celebrities, lifestyle, news, and many more. In addition to writing, she is also an English teacher, translator and a volunteer. Her interests are art, psychology and travelling, and she believes in equal rights for everyone. reginastets@gmail.com

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