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EARLY MARRIAGES IN NIGERIA.

Uche Sam.

Marriage is a Holy institution, ordained by God. World over, marriage is practiced in one form or another in accordance to customs and traditions. Those that are married are accorded respect, in most cases, if a person is not married, the society term or regarded him/her as not responsible, in some cultures, they are not assigned some special responsibilities or duties.

In Africa, it is a norm, most especially in West Africa, early marriage is practiced and celebrated. When the girl child is still underage, some cultures permit her to be betrothed to any man as her parents deem fit for or against the wish of the girl child. Factors these can be attributed to may include but not limited to; Culture, Religion, Poverty, Compensation, Promiscuity (as children of nowadays become sexually active at even tender age) etc.

 The question now is, at what age can a girl or boy be considered matured enough to get married, in that it has been argued that a girl can be twelve or fourteen years old and at that age is bodily fully matured in some cultures, while in some other cultures, no matter how physically matured a person is, he or she is considered as a minor until he/she attains the age of eighteen.  In support of the argument, a group of people feels a child can be seen as ripe for marriage once they begin to get urge for s*x. Evidently, some cultures regard maturity as in numbers, while others regard it as in structural built or physical endowments, or the stage of accountability as the case may be.

People marry for different kind of reasons, this ranges from; Love, Companionship, Procreation, to inherit Wealth, Status, Contracted marriages (maybe to gain citizenship of a country) the list goes on.

As afore mentioned, culture as a factor that early marriage can be adduced to, is as a result of a peculiar or particular way of life, mores, customs and traditions as inherited from generation to generation. It is believed that once a person grows up to a certain level of maturity, the person should be given out in marriage, hence some parents with their wealth marry a wife for their male children, while the female child can also be given out to any prospective suitor, irrespective of age, which in the real sense ought to be put into consideration as the case may be.

Poverty is also a factor, some parents that are not well to do would cheerfully give out their girl child to well-placed or well to do men in the society in return for a promised wealth (no one prays to have a poor in-law after all). Some parents in a bid for fair settlement or to maintain relationship with friends, would use the avenue of marriage to seal their bond at the expense of the happiness of the child in question. These factors undermine the real essence of marriage which is supposed to be contracted by two mutually consenting adults.

With the case of popular Nollywood actress (Regina Daniel) 19, and politician (Hon. Ned Nwoko) 59, still making the news, some have said that social status is also one of the reasons why people go into marriages, as love is not usually the ultimate determinant.

However, it is pertinent to point out some of the enormous dangers that early marriage portends for the girl child most especially, who is usually the victim of early marriage.

One, suppression of the child’s will power. An under aged girl child is said not to have the capacity to really decide what is good for her or what is not, hence her parents make this vital decision on her behalf which the aftermath could be very disastrous, pains and burdens she must bear alone (s*x for two, pregnancy for one.)

Two, the girl child may not fully understand the workings of the human anatomy, and she faces the dangers ahead of her when she eventually gets pregnant as a teenage expectant mother. The northern part of Nigeria today is said to have the highest cases of dialysis (A condition that makes the woman pass out urine with the aid of pipe). These women are often faced with rejection, abandoned, discriminated against among other emotional traumas attached to the condition. Some have committed suicide, some died during delivery, the list goes on.

Three, the girl child becomes a school dropout when married out early, because she is faced with family responsibilities as a young wife or mother to cater for the home, and as a result she becomes unstable and unable to cope with her education.

As it is said, “He who educates a woman educates a whole nation” little one wonders why our nation is still underdeveloped, simply because many of our women are not educated, but are confined to the four corners of the home and the whole nation continue to suffer. Today, Africa and Nigeria most especially, with many case in view, is still underdeveloped simply because most of our potential women are not harnessed, most of them were not given opportunity to get to their prime before they got cut off life, or caught up with marriages that took their voice away from them. Early marriage should not become a prerequisite. “give the child pen, not pen*s”.

Haven heard so much noise about man power, no one seems to pay attention to the woman power. I choose to share this different view on this subject. I believe that while man expresses his might over the woman, education can as well be one major source for woman power. In order to empower our women, they should not be subjected to early marriages, they must be given the option of choice, to choose what she desire and adjudge good, just her like their male counterpart, after all “What is good for the goods is also good for the gander”. It should be a woman’s prerogative to make and take her decision under proper guidance, for in the midst of many good counsels there is safety.

Therefore, since we claim to be civilized adults, let us promote this noble course and see to it that early/child marriage is abolished. It begins with you. Our leaders, both political and traditional, should endeavor to lead by example and stop marrying children old enough to be their grandchildren (I really wonder what kind of love that is, or a new way of scamming wealthy folks). That said, we are confronted with a multimillion dollar question; In the face of civilization world over, would you give out your fourteen or sixteen-year-old child in marriage simply because you fear that she might become promiscuous at a later age?

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