The Prevalence of Early Girl Child Marriage in Northern Nigeria

Umahi legacy


By Zainab Alhassan Ado

The practice of early girl child marriage has prevailed in Northern Nigeria even though many countries in Africa have a legal backing on the minimum age for marriage which is either pegged on 16 or 18 depending on the country. Today, underage marriages are conceived and arranged by parents, whereby children are given into marriage based on some reasons adduced in favour of the practice like conflict, poverty, religion, to mention a few. It is a common thing to find a prevalence of such practices wide spread in several attain puberty in most cases or even the age to get married as defined by several laws in Nigeria and other parts of the world particularly in Africa, Asia, and South America. 

In Northern Nigeria, a significant number of early marriages are prevalent in most cultures in the country. As such, much is needed on the side of parents, government, and traditional rulers to eliminate the detrimental cultural practice of child marriage of young girls. Some of these girls are married off at the age of 15, and others at the age of 18. Despite the extremely prevalent of this act in some communities in Northern Nigeria, nothing is done to address this issue. This is sad!

The practice which is embedded in the traditional behavior, attitudes, and or practices of the people, which occur due to societal values placed on such practices. Early Marriage is one aspect of harmful traditional marriage, which affects the fundamental rights of women and girls. Certain harmful traditional norms and practices which are customary, cultural and sometimes an attempt will be made to examine the harmful practice of early marriage as a violation of the human rights of cases carried out to the detriment of young girls and women who are incapable of resisting them at the time of its religious actions taken in a community that undermine the dignity of women. 

In the Northern part of Nigeria today, young girls are given out for marriage to husbands who are old enough to be their father. Ironically some of these young girls reach puberty in the houses of their husbands. Aside from this, there are other lacunas to this menace, starting from lack of quality education which can be attributed to this menace hardly such a child will be allowed to go to school. There is a need for people in authority to address the issue of early girl child marriage as this practice is causing more harm than good, and the time to address this is now.