Towards eradicating child marriage, harmful practices in Enugu
Child marriage and other harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria and some other parts of the world have continued to prevail despite laws against them.
Experts described such practices as threat to girls’ lives and health and they also opined that they limit the future prospects of such girls.
A report by the United Nations Population Fund Activities (UNPFA) described Child marriage as a human rights violation.
The report stated that despite laws against it, the practice remains widespread in some parts of the world because of high level of poverty and gender inequality.
Statistics have also shown that one in every three girls is married before reaching age 18. And one in nine is married under 15 in developing countries.
It is interesting to note that many international agreements outlaw Child marriage, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
The International Conference on Population and Development in 1994 also called on countries to eradicate Child marriage.
Medical experts observed that Child marriage threatens girls’ health and well-being as marriage is often followed by pregnancy, even if a girl is not yet physically or mentally ready.
In developing countries, nine out of 10 births to girls under the age of 18 occur within a marriage or a union.
In those countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19.
It has also been proved that girls who married early stand the risk of being exposed to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Many are of the view that poverty is one of the major factors that leads to Child marriage as some parents press their teenage girls in to Child marriage due to poverty.
Girls in Child marriages tend to be less educated and live in rural areas. Many parents who are ravaged by poverty are of the view that early marriage will secure their daughters’ future by ensuring that another family will be responsible for their care.
Recently, the Council of Traditional Rulers in Enugu pronounced its determination to end Child marriage and other harmful practices in the state.
The pronouncement was made in a communiqué issued by the council at the end of a multi stakeholders’ strategic conference aimed to end all forms of violence against women and girls in the state.
The conference was organised by Women Aid Collective (WACOL) with the support of Ford Foundation.
While applauding the organisers of the conference, the traditional rulers in Enugu state during the conference affirmed that they were committed to eliminating harmful traditional practices such as marrying out a girl child and abolition of sacrificing female children to the shrine and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.
The monarchs in the communiqué also expressed their commitment in mediating on human rights and women’s rights cases in line with state, national, regional and international human rights laws.
The communiqué was signed by the Chairman of Enugu State Council of Traditional Rulers Ambassador Lawrence O. C. Agubuzu. The traditional rulers were drawn from all Local Government Areas across the state.
The Founding Director of WACOL/WACOL Tamar-SARC, Prof. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo who spoke at the conference, reeled out the aim of the event, which includes seeking solution and intervention to end impunity of violence perpetrated against women in the society.
Ezeilo, who was the former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, assured that WACOL would continue to work relentlessly in partnership with the critical stakeholders to finally end the spate of violence against women and all forms of gender discrimination in the society.
Other stakeholders in the conference made concerted commitment and call of solidarity including the Commissioner of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters in Enugu State, Dr. C.O C Egumgbe, who was represented by Chinemelum Onuoha Esq.
The Commissioner assured that his ministry would continue to collaborate with WACOL and the traditional rulers to ensure a total abolition of harmful traditional practices and gender biased customary laws targeting women and the girls.
Egumgbe announced that gazettes of the Chieftaincy Constitution of all the communities in the State can be accessed online at the commission’s website.
According to him, the Governor of Enugu State also facilitated the innovation, adding that WACOL could track these constitutions to identify any community in Enugu State whose constitution has any section that is gender biased.
This Multi-Stakeholders Strategic Conference in addition had in its attendance delegates from the line Ministries of Gender Affairs, Chieftaincy Matters and the 50/50 Action Women Advocacy group of Enugu State.
It is worthy to note that the 50/50 Action Women Advocacy Group was set up by WACOL to lead a high level advocacy primarily to eradicate harmful cultural norms that subjugate the interest of women in the state.
The group is made up of Women’s rights advocates, women professionals, women in business including market women, women in media, women chiefs, wives of traditional rulers, women in leadership, women in Politics, women led CBOs and FBOs as well as other community women.