I’m particularly loss of words to describe the acts of these pedophiles, mostly in the North, perpetrating evil and hiding under the guise of religious beliefs. Oh! How many of these people actually marry out their female children at 13?. Will it be safe to conclude that it is to satisfy fetish, diabolic and ritualistic ends or they outrightly need psychiatric evaluation?
I do not personally think that this child bride menace, which is gradually becoming alarming is an issue of the Constitution, for there are existing laws at all levels that clearly spells out the ideal age for a girl to be married off to a man. The Child Rights Act, which was passed in 2003, sets the age of marriage at 18 years-old. UNICEF defines child marriage as a formal marriage or informal union before 18 years of age. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) defines child marriage as marriage in which either the girl or the boy is underage, i.e., the girl is under 18 years of age or the boy is younger than 21 years. Some have posited that lack of education, poverty, social traditions, religious beliefs and poor economic conditions has greatly aided child marriage.
What then could be wrong or where did we not get it right? Methinks, enforcement of those existing laws, illiteracy, poverty and religion is obviously a major challenge in curbing the child bride problem. While some few have vociferously tried to extricate religious coloration from this, the facts available and more so, the region where this happens most is one largely populated by a particular religion. And, those caught or found doing this tend to justify this inhumane act by citing religious beliefs and permission and parental consent to perpetrate same. To support my claim: In Northern Nigeria with 76 per cent of adolescent girls in marriages in the North-west, 68 per cent in the North-east, and 35 per cent in the North-central. In the country generally, 43% of girls are married off before they turn 18 while 17% are married before they turn 15. According to UNICEF, Nigeria is home to the largest number of child brides in Africa: a massive 23 million girls and women were married as children. 76% of child marriage happen in the North West region and as low as 10% in the South East.
Quite disheartening, in Nigeria when moral issues like this come up, we act only like a wild flame, all out casting aspersions, demanding justice and of course vehemently condemning such societal immoral ills. But after a short while, we all go cold, abandon the earlier position and move on with our private lives! Forgetting that no one actually knows who the next victim would be. Social media has always been agog when issues like this come up. Do we sustain? No. Do we ensure justice is served? No. Do we follow through till the end? No. Do we keep the fire of say no to child bride burning? No. Do we keep being conscientious? No. Do we sustain continuous education as to the detrimental implications of a child bride? No. Maybe if we had, this societal menace that is gradually degrading and fast becoming a norm may have been curbed, if not completely but to a very large extent.
The resultant consequence of girl child marriage is gravely heartbreaking. Ranging from economy to health to social to physical issues. Nigeria alone, with 40 per cent of the global child marriages, accounts for 40 per cent global prevalence rate of Obstetric Fistula, which health experts have linked to child marriage and early child bearing. The country also has the highest prevalence of Vesico vaginal fistula (VVF) in the world with between 400,000 and 800,000 women living with the problem and about 20,000 new cases occurring annually, while 90 per cent are untreated. This implies that about 55 women are infected by VVF and 18,000 cases are untreated daily. It is estimated that two million women suffer from obstetric fistula globally. In Nigeria alone, the Northern part precisely has over 85 per cent of these cases.
Only 23 States of Nigeria’s 36 states have taken concrete steps to implement the minimum age of marriage. States yet to implement should as a matter of urgency do so.
The recent Ese Oruru case has revealed so many others kidnapped and held captive in the name of marriage. Truthfully, MY ESE IS STILL OUT THERE IN THE ARMS OF A MALAM! When will she be rescued like Ese Oruru and the rest? Until this perilous deed is permanently nipped in the bud, Ese is yet to be found. One then wonders where the abductor of Ese Oruru, Malam Yusuf who was said to be a tricycle (Keke) rider had the resources to hire a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to defend him in court. We do really need to start thinking that this conspiracy of a child bride is quite deeper than we think and there is more that meets the eye, should we not?
Let us all ponder on the wise words of the author of Harmattan, Gavin Weston who said “Most people simply dont know the extent of the problem. An estimated 25,000 child marriages occur everyday. That’s mind-boggling, so much so that to many people it becomes an abstract, unreal.”
Oyewole Michael Rolex writes from Ekiti State, Nigeria. And can be reached via @Rolex7Michael and 08038796168.