The issue of girl child violations and early marriage has become almost an acceptable social norm in today’s society. Statistically, Nigeria ranks 11 in the world in the practice of the unending trends of early marriage. It can be seen as an act of ignorance and the lack of respect of the girl child gender. In 2013 about 47 percent of women in Nigeria aged 20-24 were married out before age 18. Erroneously, Nigerian girls have been indoctrinated to believe that they belong to the kitchen and the other room. This evil doctrine extinguishes the glowing dreams of many young Nigerian girls, thereby making them vulnerable to exploitation.
Section 23 of the Constitution of Nigeria stipulates that a girl must attain the age of 18 before going into marriage. This is supported in of the constitution. However, a marriage conducted below the age of 18 is a violation of the fundamental rights of a girl child. It is expected that a girl child must attain the required age with accompanying educational or vocation skills to face the world. On the contrary, little girls are given out to marriage to men old enough to be their father. This ugly social trend is mostly practiced in the North-west and North-eastern Nigeria. Consequently, the girls find themselves traumatised emotionally, physically and psychologically.
Early child marriage has devastating effects on the victims. These young girls suffer limitation of career opportunities thereby stunting their social development. They often face social isolation as a result of the choice made by their parents or guardians. Threatening illness such as high blood pressure, vesico vaginal fistula, sexually transmitted disease, premature birth, and postpartum depression (PPD) are some of the side effects of early marriage.
The girl child must be seen as a daughter not a bride, a leader, a winner, a girl and not a toy to be played with and to be given away without regards. The hopes and future of many have been shattered due to early marriage, it is therefore time to end the menace of girl-child violation and abuse and parents must stop giving out babies (girl-child) as wife for reasons of debt settlement, poverty, or cultural belief. Government must begin to enforce and ban the practice of early girl-child marriage. A young girl must not be seen to be for sale but rather a unique being, created to contribute her quota to the world. Save the girl-child today!
By Kucheli Sabo Buba,
Mass Communication Department,
University of Maiduguri