Lit Review on Child Marriages in Nigeria Essay

Literature Review 2. 1Background Historical researches aimed at improving sexual and reproductive health of adolescents in Nigeria have focused on unmarried girls and boys. This can be partly attributed to the assumption that male and female adolescents are unmarried and solely responsible for risky sexual behaviour and unwanted pregnancies. However, there is a wide prevalence of early marriages in Nigeria. Nationwide, 19% of girls were married by age 15, and 43% by age 182 (2003, NDHS).

The proportions of married teenagers are much higher in the northern regions being highest in the North West and North East regions where the proportions of married teenage girls (15-19) are 73% and 59% respectively (2003 NDHS). In the northern regions, girls enter marriage (and begin their sexual experience) when they are young, sometimes as young as 10 years. The young girls are usually married to older men chosen for them by their parents (NPC and UNICEF, 2001). The problem of early marriage in northern Nigeria is significant.For one, the North lags behind the rest of the country in the trend, largely associated with education, towards delaying age of marriage. Females in the North West and North East are marrying on average more than five years earlier than those in the southern states where women are better educated.

The sheer size of northern adolescent women who are bearing children is yet another compelling reason for focusing on the sexual and reproductive health of married adolescents in northern Nigeria.Adolescent women from the North East and the North West make up 42% of total number of Nigerian adolescent women aged 15-19 and they contribute an estimated 71% of the annual births by Nigerians in the 15-19 age group (Singh, S. et al, 2004). High teenage fertility is a major contributory factor to persistently high Total Fertility Rate and Nigeria’s rapid population growth. Third and more important reason for focusing on northern, married adolescents are the negative consequences of early marriage which include heightened isks of pregnancy-related morbidity and mortality, gross violation of their human rights and, several social challenges such as missed opportunity for education and participation in gainful employment. 2.

2Definitions According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, PART I, Article 1, 1989, a child is a noun that refers to daughter or son or a prepubescent person, or a minor. Prepubescent refers to the time before the age at which a person is first capable of sexual reproduction (www. wiktionary. com, 2010), while a minor is a person who is below the legal age of responsibility or accountability (www. iktionary.

com, 2010). According to (Weisenberg, Michael 2000), a marriage is the union of two people, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Another definition of marriage as defined by http://www.

dictionary. com states that marriage as “the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc” The above definitions clearly suggest that a child is person that is not meant to take total responsibility for him or herself and should be cared for and protected.Now, taking the definitions of marriage into consideration, a child is not a person that is ready to make such a commitment because he or she will not understand fully the implications and is denied the opportunity of preparing adequately for how he or she would like to handle that kind of commitment. Child marriage usually refers to two separate social phenomena which are practised in some societies. The first and more widespread practice is that of marrying a young child (generally defined as below the age of fifteen) to an adult.Due to women’s shorter reproductive life period (relative to men’s), perhaps, the practice of child marriage tends to be of young girls to fully-grown men. The second practice is a form of arranged marriage in which the parents of two children from different families arrange a future marriage.

In this practice, the individuals who become betrothed often do not meet one another until the wedding ceremony, which occurs when they are both considered to be of a marriageable age.An increase in the advocation of human rights, whether as women’s rights or as children’s rights, has caused the traditions of child marriage to decrease greatly as it was considered unfair and dangerous for the children. Child marriages may have many purposes.

The aristocracy of some cultures tend to use child marriage among different factions or states as a method to secure political ties between them. For example, the son or daughter of the royal family of a weaker power would sometimes be arranged to marry into the royal family of a stronger neighbouring power, thus preventing itself from being assimilated.In the lower classes, if they were fortunate, families could use child marriages as means to gain financial ties with wealthier people, ensuring their successions. In child betrothals, a child’s parents arrange a match with the parents of a child from another family (social standing, wealth and expected education all play a part), thus unilaterally determining the child’s future at a young age.

It is thought by adherents that physical attraction is not a suitable foundation upon which to build a marriage and a family. citation needed] A separate consideration is the age at which the wedding, as opposed to the engagement, takes place. Families are able to cement political and/or financial ties by having their children inter-marry. The betrothal is considered a binding contract upon the families and the children. The breaking of a betrothal can have serious consequences both for the families and for the betrothed individuals themselves. 2. 3Child marriage by religion . 3.

1Child marriage in Judaism Child marriage was possible in Judaism, due to the very low marriageable age for females. A ketannah (literally meaning little [one]) was any girl between the age of 3 years and that of 12 years plus one day; (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901-1906) a ketannah was completely subject to her father’s authority, and her father could arrange a marriage for her, whether she agreed to it or not (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901-1906).According to the Talmud, if the marriage did end (due to divorce or the husband’s death), any further marriages were optional; the ketannah had the right to annul them. (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901-1906). If the father was dead, or missing, the brothers of the ketannah, collectively, had the right to arrange a marriage for her, as had her mother, (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901-1906) although in these situations a ketannah would always have the right to annul her arriage, even if it was the first (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901-1906). The choice of a ketannah to annul a marriage, known in Hebrew as mi’un (literally meaning refusal/denial/protest), (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901-1906) lead to a true annulment, not a divorce; a divorce document (get) was not necessary, and a ketannah who did this was not regarded by legal regulations as a divorcee, in relation to the marriage (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901-1906).

Unlike divorce, mi’un was regarded with distaste by many rabbinic writers, even in the Talmud; in earlier classical Judaism, one major faction – the House of Shammai – argued that such annulment rights only existed during the betrothal period (erusin), and not once the actual marriage (nissu’in) had begun (Jewish Encyclopedia, Yemabot 107a, 1901-1906). 2. 3. 2Child marriage in Islam According to Sunni sources, Muhammad consummated his marriage with Aisha, when she was nine years old. Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:62:64 (D.

A. Spellberg, 1994). Islamic scholars state that no age limits have been fixed by Islam for marriage.Children of the youngest age may be married or promised for marriage, “although a girl is not handed over to her husband until she is fit for marital congress” (Levy Reuben, 2000). 2. 4Child marriage by region 2. 4. 1Africa Despite many countries enacting marriageable age laws to limit marriage to a minimum age of 16 to 18, depending on jurisdiction, traditional marriages are widespread.

Poverty, religion, tradition, and conflict make the incidence of child marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa similar to South Asia (Nour, 2006). In many tribal systems, a man pays a bride price to the girl’s family in order to marry her. Compare with the customs of dowry and dower. ) In many parts of Africa, this payment, in cash, cattle, or other valuables, decreases as a girl gets older. Even before puberty it is common for a married girl to leave her parents to be with her husband. Many marriages are poverty related, with parents needing the bride price to feed, clothe, educate, and house the rest of the family. Meanwhile, a male child in these countries is more likely to gain a full education, gain employment and pursue a working life, thus tending to marry later.

In Mali, the female:male atio of marriage before age 18 is 72:1; in Kenya, 21:1 (Nour, 2006). The various UN commissioned reports indicate that in many Sub-Saharan countries, there is a high incidence of marriage among girls younger than 15. Many governments have tended to overlook the particular problems that child marriage has resulted in, including obstetric fistulae, prematurity, stillbirth, sexually transmitted diseases (including cervical cancer), and malaria (Nour, 2006). In parts of Ethiopia and Nigeria, quite a number of girls are married before the age of 15 and some girls are married as young as the age of 7. 11] In parts of Mali, 39% of girls are married before the age of 15.

In Niger and Chad, over 70% of girls are married before the age of 18 (Nour, 2006). In South Africa, there are legal provisions made for respecting the marriage laws of traditional marriages whereby a person might be married as young as 12 for females and 14 for males (Nour, 2006). Early marriage is cited as “a barrier to continuing education for girls (and boys)”. This includes absuma (arranged marriages set up between cousins at birth), bride kidnapping, and elopement decided on by the children (UNFPA, 2005).

. 5Child marriages in Northern Nigeria and the impact on society Teenage marriage (among girls aged 15-19) is substantial nationally. But it is highest in the northern regions where 27% of females aged 15-19 had ever married (NDHS, 2003).

The North Western Part of Nigeria has the highest proportion, accounting for 73% of married teenagers. The proportion of married teenagers is also a very high 59% in the North East when compared to the southern regions of the country; 4% and 3% in the South West and the South East (Singh, S. et al. 2004).Following tradition, large numbers of teenagers in northern Nigeria are married off by their parents with or without their consent.

Such early marriage of girls undermines a number of rights guaranteed by the Convention on rights of the Child to which Nigeria is a signatory. Early marriage poses a critical problem for young girls who are frequently made to wed much older men. A re-analysis of the 2003 NDHS data reveals that 56% of married teenagers aged 15-19 have husbands who are at least 10 years their senior (Singh, S. et al 2004). The age gap is due mainly to the high prevalence of polygamous unions.Child brides of older men are powerless, and face heavy penalties including death if they take any independent action. Early marriage violates these rights: ? The right to education ? The right to be protected from all forms of physical or mental abuse, including sexual abuse and from all forms of sexual exploitation ? The right to enjoyment of the highest attainable ? standard of health ? The right to educational and vocational information and guidance ? The right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas ? The right to rest and leisure, and to participate freely in cultural life ?The right not to be separated from their parents against their will ? The right to protection against all forms of exploitation affecting any aspect of the child’s welfare (36) (Source: UNFPA, 2003). The case below clearly demonstrates the social implications of the negative blows to the individuals that are forced into these early marriages: Hauwa Abubakar “A famous ruling by the High Court of Kaduna upheld the right of a father to “compel his virgin daughter into marriage without her consent and even I she has not obtained puberty”, supposedly in line with the Maliki School of Islamic Law, which had been invoked by the lower court.

One such virgin daughter was Hauwa Abubakar whose gruesome murder made headlines in 1987. At the Age of nine, her father married her off to one Mallam Shehu Garba Kiruwa, a 40 year-old cattle dealer to whom he owed money. For two years she refused to go and live with her putative husband, but she was taken to his house when she began to menstruate at the age of twelve. Still not content to accept her lot, she twice ran away and was twice forcibly returned. On the third occasion, Mallam Shehu pinned her down and chopped off her legs with a poisoned cutlass resulting in her death.