REASONS OF CHILD MARRIAGE
Every girl has dreams about her wedding day. After all, it is supposed to be one of the most important days of her life. But somehow it is doubtful that somewhere in that dream any girl imagines she would still be an actual child on that day. Yet that is the reality for many child brides in many different parts of the world Despite many countries in Africa enacting marriageable age laws to limit marriage to a minimum age of 16 or 18 depending on the jurisdiction, underage marriages are still very common. Poverty, religion, tradition and conflict make the incidence of child marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa wide spread. In many tribal systems, a man pays a bride price to a girl’s family in order to marry her. Sadly in many parts of Africa, this payment decreases as the girl gets older. Even before puberty, it is common for a married girl to leave her parents to be with her husband. Many child marriages are poverty related with the parents of the girl needing the bride price to feed, clothe, educate and house the rest of the family. This automatically puts a halt to the girl’s education and exposes her to diverse health problems. In Nigeria, like other African countries, traditional customs, deep-rooted cultural mores and religious beliefs tend to compete with and in many cases overshadow the common laws and statutory laws with regard to some issues. Issues relating to women are mostly affected resulting in incidences such as child marriage. Child marriage was a common form of marriage in Nigeria, which unfortunately, is still practiced in some rural communities especially in the Hausa culture in the northern states of Nigeria. Under this practice a girl from birth was betrothed to a man to whom she will be formally married to between the ages of eight and ten . The issue of choice of partner for the girl-child is the duty of the family members or the father who takes into consideration different factors in making a choice. The choice is based on such considerations as social, religious, monetary or economic reasons. Poverty and economic transactions are critical factors contributing to child marriages and a common reason why parents may encourage a child to marry. Where poverty is acute, a young girl may be regarded as an economic burden and her marriage to a much older man. Sometimes even elderly man is believed to benefit the child and her family both financially and socially. In communities where child marriage is practiced, marriage is regarded as a transaction, often representing a significant economic activity for a family. A daughter may be the commodity a family has left to be traded and sometimes girls can be used as currency or to settle debts. In Africa, the monetary value of bride price, or bride wealth, a sum, either in cash or kind, used to purchase a bride for her labour and facility, is linked with marriage. In the context of poverty, the practice of paying bride price can encourage early marriage. Young girls, a resource with which their parents can attain greater wealth, are married off at young age for the bride price and also as a way for parents to lessen their economic burdens. Age of the prospective husband is not a factor, as in many of the cases the husband chosen is quite older than the girl. CULTURE
The customary law of a community embraces all the beliefs, religion and social institutions of the said community. The various cultures in Africa are generally rich, unique, humane and make for bonding in the family, and customary marriage is one of such cultures. There are however in built in some cultural institutions, practices that are rather repugnant to the objective mind. While customary marriage remains unique in itself because of the bonding of the bride and groom’s families, the capacity to contract a customary law marriage in Nigeria seems to have no limits with respect to marriageable age. Majority of the cultures in Nigeria are patrilineal...
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