[Pictured: Nigerian Maimuna Abdullahi, aged 14, who made world headlines this 2014 when she fled her physically abusive marital home after a year of marriage, in order to finish her education.]
In its latest report on child marriage, published this July 2014, UNICEF – United Nations Children’s Fund projects that Nigeria will have the highest number of child brides by 2050. There are currently more than 700 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday and more than one in three (about 250 million) entered into union before age 15, the report states.
Boys are also married as children, but girls are disproportionately affected.
Although child marriage has seen a steady decline in Nigeria, UNICEF predicts that due to population growth, the rise in number of child marriages will not be offset.
Facts & Figures on Child Marriage in Nigeria
“…girls are often married to considerably older men. In Mauritania and Nigeria, more than half of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 who are currently married have husbands who are 10 or more years older than they are.”
“In Africa, Nigeria is expected to have the largest absolute number of child brides. The country has seen a decline in child marriage of about 1 per cent per year over the past three decades. At this pace, the total number of child brides is expected to double by 2050.”
Debate on child marriage gained traction in 2013 in Nigeria due to the #ChildNotBride social media campaign, which arose due to discussions on a bill to determine a “full age” for a Nigerian who wants to renounce his/her citizenship. It was during this discussion that the issue of underage marriage surfaced, i.e. if a married female under 18 is considered to be of full age.
Another catalyst was Senator Ahmad Yerima’s justification of underage marriage under Islamic laws and several interviews where he stated his views.
We will keep you updated if this report re-ignites the national debate.
Photo Credit: Sunday Alamba, The Associated Press, The Associated Press