Hanatu Adamu was 3 years old when a 40-year old man, Danjuma Abdulahi, proposed to her. At the age of 15, she was given out in marriage by her parents.. A year later, she became pregnant. During delivery, she had a prolonged and obstructed labour which resulted to Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) and the death of the baby.
Hanatu was abandoned by Abdulahi, her husband in the hospital because he could not pay the hospital bill. It took the intervention of a non-governmental organisation before she was adequately treated of the VVF and discharged from the hospital.
Another was the case of Sarah Jumoh who married at the age of 15 to a 50- year old man. She eventually became pregnant at the age of 16 and was unable to deliver the baby after nine months. She died with the baby in her womb after a prolonged labour.
According to a report by the United Nations Population Fund Activities (UNPFA), Child marriage is a human rights violation.
The report stated that despite laws against it, the practice remains widespread, in some part of the world because of high level of poverty and gender inequality.
Statistics show that one in every three girls is married before reaching age 18. One in nine is married under 15 in developing countries.
It is interesting to note that many international agreements outlaw Child marriage, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The International Conference on Population and Development in 1994 also called on countries to eradicate Child marriage
Medical experts observed that Child marriage threatens girls’ health and well-being as marriage is often followed by pregnancy, even if a girl is not yet physically or mentally ready.
The experts further explained that in developing countries, nine out of 10 births to girls under the age of 18 occur within a marriage or a union.
According to them, in those countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19’’..
Speaking on the issue, a gender based analyst, Mrs. Blessing Muoneke, stated that girls who married early stand the risk of being exposed to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and added that when girls marry, they are often forced to drop out of school so they can assume household responsibilities.
Mrs. Muoneke said such marriage limits their future prospects as they may not continue with their education or engage in meaningful businesses..
In her words : “Girls who go into marriage often become pregnant and as soon as that occurs, they will drop out of school and may never go back, thereby making it impossible for them to be well educated in life.’’
She described poverty as one of the major factors that leads to child marriage .
Explaining further, she said: “Parents press their teenage girls into marriage due to poverty . Girls in child marriages tend to be less educated and to live in rural areas. Many parents who are ravaged by poverty are of the view that early marriage will secure their daughters’ future by ensuring that another family will be responsible for their care.
“This is also true in some cases, when many parents fear they will be unable to protect or care for their female children. Some wrongfully accept that marriage will protect their teenage girls from sexual violence, which is often worst in times of conflicts.
“The fact is that Child marriage exposes girls to more difficulties, they will be sexually abused by their older husbands and they tend to be giving birth on yearly basis which is detrimental to their health.
“Child marriage also leads to child mortality because an adolescent mother may be unable to take proper care of a new born, thereby exposing such new baby to diseases that may eventually end his life.’’
On his part, an educationist, Mr. Gilbert Simeon described marriage as one of the life’s important decisions and added that when a girl is pressed into child marriage, she will not have right to choose whom and when to marry.
He opined that most parents see their female children as burdens or commodities and added that payment of dowries complicate the issue:
In addition, he said that in areas where the groom pays bride price parents in difficult circumstances may marry off their daughters as a source of income.
However, he described education as an important element in preventing child marriages, saying that girls with high level of education are less likely to marry as children.
On his part, Pastor Timothy Ofoegbu, regretted that some cultures permit child marriage , thereby encouraging families to give out their female children in marriage while they are still tender.
In this case, he said young female children are given in to marriages without their consent which eventually leads to sexual abuse.
The clergy, therefore, appealed to parents especially mothers to stop encouraging their young daughters to go into child marriage so that they will be able to receive quality education or skills that will make them live meaningful life.
“Girls who are in to child marriages have nothing to contribute to the development of the family not to talk of the society because they do not have anything. They have neither good education nor skills that will enable them assist their spouses and whereby their husbands do not have enough, the family lives in extreme poverty.’’
To end child marriages, UNPFA in a report says it requires action at many levels and that existing laws against child marriage should be enforced, especially when girls at risk of child marriage, or who are already married, seek protection and justice.
Analysts also advised that government , civil society and other partners must work together to ensure girls have access to education, health information and services, and life-skills training.
They also added that girls who are already married need to be supported.
“Married girls need reproductive health services to help them avoid early pregnancy. Those who become pregnant need access to appropriate care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and in the post-partum period. They should be supported, if they choose, in returning to formal or non-formal school.
“These steps lead to healthier families, higher levels of gender equality and, in turn, stronger societies and more vibrant economies. No society can afford the lost opportunity, waste of talent, or personal exploitation that child marriage causes,’’ they submitted.