Photo credit: Wellbeing Foundation
In Nigeria, 43% of girls are married off before their 18th birthday. 17% are married before they turn 15.
The prevalence of child marriage varies widely from one region to another, with figures as high as 76% in the North West region and as low as 10% in the South East.
While data shows a 9% decline in the prevalence of child marriage since 2003, action is needed to prevent thousands of girls from being married in the coming years.
Poverty, poor educational attainment and strong social and religious traditions are drivers of child marriage in Nigeria.
Education is a strong indicator of whether a girl will marry as a child. 82% of women with no education were married before 18, as opposed to 13% of women who had at least finished secondary education.
In northern Nigeria, parents have complained that the quality of education is so poor that schooling cannot be considered a viable alternative to marriage for their daughters.
LEGAL AGE OF MARRIAGE
The Nigerian Constitution does not establish a minimum age of marriage. The Child Rights Act, which was passed in 2003, sets the age of marriage at 18 years-old. However, only 23 of Nigeria’s 36 states have taken concrete steps to implement the minimum age of marriage.
NATIONAL INITIATIVES TO END CHILD MARRIAGE
In November 2016, Nigeria became the 17th country to launch the African Union campaign to end child marriage. The Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development launched on the same day a national strategy to end child marriage. The strategy’s vision is to reduce child marriage by 40% by 2020, and end the practice entirely by 2030.
A Technical Working Group on Ending Child Marriage was formed at the end of 2015. Spearheaded by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, the group is composed of over 30 members, including civil society organisations. Its aims are to develop and implement a holistic multi-sectoral strategy for ending child marriage in Nigeria, as well as raising awareness, encouraging behaviour change, and ensuring the monitoring and evaluation of laws and policies.
In May 2015, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act was adopted to address the issue of female genital mutilation/cutting and other harmful traditional practices such as child marriage.
- UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2016
- World Vision, Untying the knot: Exploring early marriage in fragile states, 2013
- UNFPA, Marrying Too Young: End Child Marriage, 2012
- UNFPA, Nigeria: Child marriage country profile, 2012