“Any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.” — Section 29 (4b) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.
Social media was awash last weekend with news that the Senate had signed a ‘child marriage act’ into law, legalizing marriage for girls under the age of 18. Although lawmakers have corrected this notion, saying that the section stated above only relevant to “renunciation of citizenship” alone, the ruckus has created ample opportunity for well meaning Nigerians to campaign for education for the girl-child instead of under-aged marriage.
With the highest number of out-of-school children-about 10.5 million, about 6 million of whom are girls, the reasons for such campaigns are not farfetched. “Child marriage, from available statistics, ultimately hampers the efforts of these young adolescents from acquiring an education, as sooner than later, they find it difficult to combine the onerous responsibilities of being a wife and mother, with schooling,” says Maryam Wais, chairperson of the Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative (IWEI).
The IWEI boss, continuing on the dire consequences of early marriage on education said: “They drop out, if they have not been removed for the purpose of marriage, in the first place. Consequently, 70.8% of young women aged 20-29 in the North West zone are unable to read or write. Due to the fact that these girls are deprived so early of an education (including the access to information and knowledge), they remain bereft of the purchasing power necessary for an adequate diet, healthcare, skills, or even recourse to support in emergencies, all of which would enable them rise above the circumstances of abject poverty.
“It is paradoxical that Muslims like Senator Yerima would rather their wives and daughters be treated by female medical personnel if they fall ill, and yet they are, by