from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – NIGERIAN authorities are allegedly complicit in the prevalence of child marriage.
This is according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which reports that federal and state governments have not adequately enforced laws to prevent it.
Nigeria’s rates of child marriage are some of the highest on the African continent.
Although the federal Child Rights Act (CRA, 2003) prohibits marriage below age 18, the Nigerian constitution contains provisions which appear to conflict with this position.
States with Islamic legal systems have also failed to adopt both the federal law and 18 as the age of majority for marriage. Some southern states which have adopted this position have failed to take adequate steps to carry it out.
“It is disturbing that almost two decades after the Child Rights Act was passed, Nigerian girls are still being forced into child marriages,” said Mausi Segun, Africa director at HRW.
“Nigerian states should urgently act to adopt, implement, and align existing laws with the provisions of the Child Rights Act, which criminalizes marriage before the age of 18 and protects girls’ rights.”
Eleven of Nigeria’s 36 states have yet to adopt the Child Rights Act. Customary and Islamic laws in several northern states, largely Muslim, also permit traditional harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.
This is despite Nigeria’s commitment to key international human rights treaties.
Recent reports show that in some northern states, 78 percent of girls marry before the age of 18.
– CAJ News