1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
A Girl- child refers to a young female human being below the age of majority, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (Oxford, 2012). Girl child marriage, also known as early marriage age refers to marriage of a child younger than 18 years old in accordance to article one of the conventions on the rights of the child.
Reproductive Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproduction and to its functions and processes, World Health Organization (WHO, 2005)
Studies have shown Girl-child marriage is a world wide phenomenon but is most prevalent in Africa and Southern Asia and although its practice has decreased in recent decades, it remains common in, although not only confined to, rural areas and among the most poverty stricken, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA, 2005). In Africa, the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF,2005), estimated that 42 percent of girls are married before the age of 18 and in some African countries the figure is much higher, such as in Niger where 76 percent incidence of child marriage .
The age at which children are married also varies between countries. But marriage before the age of 15 is not uncommon in some areas of West Africa. In parts of Ethiopia and Nigeria, numerous girls are married before the age of 15, some as young as 7 (UNFPA, 2005)
Despite poor countries enacting marriageable laws to limit marriage to a minimum age of 16 and 18, depending on jurisdiction, traditional marriages of girls of younger ages are widespread. Poverty, religion, tradition, and conflict make the rate of child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa similar to that in South Asia (Nour, 2006).
Girl child marriage has considerable implications for the social development of the child bride, in terms of low levels of education and poor health seeking behavior. The non-education of the girl child is a problem compound by child marriage with studies showing strong correlation between a woman’s age at marriage and the level of education she achieves (Jenson et al, 2006)
Psychologic consequences of early marriage also manifest in young bride. It is a huge responsibility for a young girl to become a wife and a mother because girls are not adequately prepared for these roles, this heavy burden has a serious impact on their psychological welfare, their perceptions of themselves and also their relationship (Jenson et al, 2006). Physical consequences covers physical harm, forced sexual acts including rape (UNICEF, 2008). Young mothers face higher risks during pregnancies including complications such as heavy bleeding, fistula, and eclampsia contribute to higher mortality rates of both mother and child. They may also suffer vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. Being young and female in Africa is major risk factor for infection (UNFPA, 2007)
Early marriage is a form of cultural, harmful traditional practice which is a component of Reproductive Health (Ayanwuyi, 2008). Child marriage has impact on all the components of reproductive health which include family planning, safe motherhood, abortion and post abortal care, reproductive tract infections and HIV/AIDS, infertility, nutrition, adolescent reproductive health and sexuality, harmful traditional practices and Gender Issues as well as reproductive tract malignancies.
This study therefore, is aimed at examining the physical, socio cultural, psychological as well as reproductive health consequences of girl child marriage and as well suggest strategies on how to eradicate this practice realize the rights of the girl child and reduce the complications created by girl child marriage
1:2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Girl-child marriage is a form of harmful traditional practices where a young girl usually less than than 18years of age and...