Tuesday, 16 October 2012 08:02

NIGERIA: End Child Marriage Through Education, UN Urges


12 October 2012 - The United Nations has urged Nigerian government to protect the girl child from early marriage and abuse by enrolling girls in schools to enable them "build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families."

The UN in Nigeria disclosed this in a statement to mark the International Day of the Girl Child and calls on the federal and states governments to make special efforts to protect the rights of the girl child.

"Education for girls is one of the best strategies for protecting girls against child marriage. When they are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, girls can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families. And if they have already been married young, access to education, economic opportunities and health services including HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health will help enrich their lives and enhance their future," the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said in a message to mark the Day.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Daouda Toure in the statement also noted that "Child marriage has adverse effects for the child and for society as a whole. Child marriage denies a girl of her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk of violence and abuse, jeopardizes her health and therefore constitutes an obstacle to the achievement of nearly every Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and the development of resilient communities."

The statement added that "globally, one in three young women aged 20-24 years were first married before they reached age 18. One third of them entered into marriage before they turned 15. Child marriage results in early and unwanted pregnancies, posing life-threatening risks for girls. In developing countries, 90 per cent of births to adolescents aged 15-19 are to married girls, and pregnancy-related complications are the leading cause of death for girls in this age group."

It said preventing child marriage will protect girls' rights and help reduce their risks of violence, early pregnancy, HIV infection, and maternal death and disability, including obstetric fistula.

"When girls are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, they can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families and participate in the progress of their nations," the statement read.

The UN noted that though the marriage laws of developing countries vary widely, 113 countries including Nigeria have established 18 years as the minimum marriage age for girls while 147 countries have established 18 years for boys till date.

It also acknowledged that the Nigerian Child Rights Act of 2003 prohibits child marriage and even prescribes punishment for child betrothal and marriage.

The global body however urges state governments in Nigeria to domesticate the Child Rights Act and join in the protection of the girl child from early marriages.

The UN System in Nigeria called on government and partners to focus on preventing child marriage, which is a human rights violation recognised by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Child Rights Act and impacts all aspects of a girl's life.

It would be recalled that in recognition of the peculiar challenges facing the girl child, the UN General Assembly in a resolution on December 19, 2011, adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 every year as the International Day to be observed around the world.

The theme for this year is "Ending Child marriage".

Source: Daily Trust

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