Wife of former Kwara State governor and founder-President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, WBFA, Mrs Oluwatoyin Saraki, has called for an urgent amendment of Section 29 (4) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), legalizing child marriage.
In a position statement on the resolution of the Senate to retain provisions of the Section in question, Saraki pointed out that the constitutional amendment was desirable for clarification purposes, and to eliminate all forms of equivocation that can and will promote the continued abuse of girls through child marriage.
In the statement signed by the WBFA Executive Director, Mr Temitayo Erogbogbo, the body expressed grave concern over the Senate’s resolution which, it said, disenfranchises girls and women, and encourages child marriage which robs girls of a good education, optimal health, opportunities for socio-economic empowerment and violates their rights to security and protection from all forms of physical and mental abuse.
“Section 29 (4) (b) contradicts conventions that the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a signatory to, which profess, as commitments, the protection of the rights of girls and women from all forms of abuse, neglect or discrimination, as well as providing the best-available opportunities for self-actualization and fulfillment, through education and other means,” the statement said.
“The evidence is clear that child marriages deny girls of an opportunity to complete an education, thereby directly diminishing their chances at a good life. In line with the Foundation’s long-standing policy we shall continue to strive for improved well being of the girl-child by protecting their rights to security; protection from all forms of physical and mental abuse; education; health; and social and economic empowerment, irrespective of their religious or cultural backgrounds.”
Calling for the rejection of any form of stigmatization of married minors, as well as seeking exceptional and increased protection of child rights and citizenship benefits for all existing married minors, the statement said,“ We look to the House of Representative of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to support our call to action to this end.” According to the WBFA, child marriages are detrimental to a girl’s health, by a direct effect. “Young girls, by virtue of the fact that their bodies are not yet fully developed, run a high risk of developing complications in pregnancy and childbirth, compared to women. Such complications include prolonged and obstructed labour, bleeding, and even death. Girls who are married young are also more vulnerable to contracting sexually transmissible infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS”.
The statement observed that chain reaction that results from a mother’s ill-health also have direct effects on income-generation, especially in Nigeria where the informal sector, mainly driven by women and girls, has contributed largely to household income.
“Therefore, there is an urgent need for the amendment of Section 29 (4) (b) of the Constitution of Nigeria, if the government must keep to its word of ensuring good health and economic prosperity for its people”