A child is one who has either not attained the age of an adult or is below the age of puberty. He or she is yet to have the characteristics or attributes of an adult.
There have been various discussions on the issue of “girl child marriage” which is popularly practiced in Africa.
A movie titled “Dry” was released in 2014. It was directed by one of Nollywood’s A list actress, Stephanie Linus Okereke. The movie exposes the risk of a girl child pregnancy and childbirth. The girl child in the movie suffered from a certain sickness known as Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) when she was forced to marry an elderly man. VVF is a condition where a hole develops between the vagina and the bladder, resulting in uncontrollable leaking of urine through the vagina.
There are a lot of reasons a girl is forced to marry at a tender age.
One of the major reasons is providing financial stability for her family (if she’s from a poor background).
There’s also a case where the young girl is betrothed to someone before or after she has been born. Here, she is quickly married off at a very tender age before she beings to acquire “wisdom” and make decisions that go against the wishes of her parents.
These girls who are forced into marriage have no idea of how a marriage or home should run or be taken care of. They risk their lives during sexual intercourse and childbirth. They also contract STDs, and most times, undergo physical abuse at a very tender age.
Health workers have it that when a girl is tender and not up to the stage of puberty, her womb is too weak or premature to nurture a fetus. It becomes dangerous and exposes the girl child to infections especially when she has little or no access to health care.
A lot of girls who are forced into early marriage get physically abused by their so-called husbands. Many of these girls have lost their lives in this process.
Section 21 Part III in the ‘Children and Allied Laws’ states that no person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage, and accordingly, a marriage so contracted is null and void of no effect whatsoever.
Also, section 22 Part III states, “No parent, guardian or any other person shall betroth a child to any person and a betrothal in contravention in subsection (1) of this section is null and void”. The punishment for anyone who gets married to a child, or to whom a child is betrothed, or who promotes the marriage of a child commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 (Nigeria currency) or imprisonment for a term of five years or both such fine and imprisonment.
It is not enough that these laws are in place. The Federal Government should also ensure strict adherence and punish persons who violate these laws. A lot of NGOs are fighting for the rights of these little children, and they deserve the much-needed support from the Federal Government.
It is quite unfortunate and disheartening that some countries or cultures in Africa practice this abominable act without seeing or learning from the damages it has caused and still causing in the lives of young girls.
This is an opinion article. The views contained in this article is solely the responsibility of the author and does not in any way reflect the views of Hanoky Media.