Photo credit. unfpa.org
Under age marriage.
Talking about underage marriage, in Africa we are the center of underage marriage in the world.
I am from Nigeria and I live in the North Western Nigeria (am from the North Eastern part of Nigeria), and the North West is where underage marriage is mostly practice.
I stay in Sokoto where underage marriage is a norm and not seen as bad, Sokoto have a very high cases of women living with Vesicular Virginal Fistula (VVF).
Underage marriage is a marriage between one of the two (or both) person involve in the marriage contract or agreements. I am looking at underage marriage not in the context of birth age (18 being legal or official), but looking at the persons as not being matured physiologically. Mentally, physically, and emotionally not being matured is also tagged as being underage. The girl child are mostly the most affected by this.
I am writing about underage marriage, I was in a village in Sokoto for a research work, and my guide a young boy of about 9 – 11 years of age said a statement that almost brought tears to my eyes.
Faruku and his friend saw a small girl passing by and his friend said “har anyi ma yarinya nan wanka” which means this in English “This girl has already been married off”. Then Faruku said they are just suffering this girl, they went ahead to talked about other young girls who are even in their matrimonial homes.
These young boys feel bad about the underage marriage, what saddens me was a young man who was with us and he sees nothing wrong with the girls being married off ag that young age, he is even trying to defend the practice and fault those you boys and being boys and don’t know anything yet. During this discussion a lot was going on in my mind and here are a few of them.
- How do these young boys know that these girls are too young for marriage?
- How come this young man don’t see the evil of this practice?
- Are these young boys truly too young to know what is marriage?
- Will they still hold on to this believe as they grow up as underage marriage is bad?
- How come the people of this community welcome such a practice?
As I finished my work and headed back home I was just disturbed in my spirit and I remember when I visit Maryam Abatcha Women and Children Hospital Sokoto, I saw so many women young girls most of them about 13 – 15 years of age suffering from VVF. I begin to wonder how did they get to this state and what is the solution?
I think more awareness and enlightenment and sex/reproductive health education has to be intensify to get everyone aware and enlighten. Leaders and elders of the communities need to be involve in this awareness campaign.
I pray there will be more voices who will rise up and speak about this.