By Justina Auta
An NGO, Focusing on Women and Girls Initiative for Positive Change (FOWGI for positive change), has called for the implementation of laws that will protect and promote adolescent girls’ rights to end child marriage.
Mrs Rifaku Ademola-Bello, the Founder and Executive Director, FOWGI, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Friday.
Ademola-Bello described child marriage as any formal or informal union between a child (boy or girl) under the age of 18 and an adult/another child where
they live a partner as though they’re a couple.
She attributed the cause of child marriage to cultural, economic and social forces prevalent among Nigerian’s poorest, rural households and uneducated population.
The Executive Director stressed that implementing laws and policies, as well as domesticating them such as the Child Rights Act will address the prevalence of child marriage and encourage girl-child education.
“ Without strong regulatory protections for girls, child marriage is a common practice in Nigeria rooted in traditional, economic, religious, and legal conditions that disproportionately affect girls and women.
“Also, it is used to avoid the social stigma over teen pregnancy.
“ Child marriage is also reinforced by unequal gender roles. Girls have very little access to decision-making power, bodily autonomy, or rights as it is of the belief that girls and women are inferior to boys and men,’’ she said.
She added that child marriage was a form of violence against children that reflects the low value accorded to the human rights of girls.
“Child marriage often violates children’s rights and compromises a girl’s development and wellbeing by placing them at a high risk of violence, exploitation, sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and social isolation.
“Through limited education vocational advancement and employment opportunities.
“ Girls are vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS, and early pregnancy, cervical cancer and obstetric fistulas while their offspring are at increased risk for premature birth and death as neonates, infants, or children.
“Beyond the increase in the number of females that are out of school, there are also health implications, especially child mortality as most married girls are denied a safe dwelling, and often do not have access to adequate health care.
“Child marriage constitutes a gross violation of human rights, leaving physical, psychological and emotional scars for life’’ she said.
She, therefore stressed the need to promote girl-child education, promote community dialogue and social mobilization, health and support use of robust data and evidence to inform policy and programming, track progress and document lessons as strategies to end child marriage.
“Empower girls with information, skills and support networks; Provide economic support and incentives to girls and their families; Educate and rally parents and community members; Enhance girls’ access to a high-quality education; Encourage supportive laws and policies,’’ she said. (NAN)