by Ijeoma Opara,

A REPORT by Save the Children International has revealed that about 78 per cent of girls in Northern Nigeria are victims of forced child marriage.

The organisation disclosed this in a statement released in Abuja on Thursday.

According to the report launched by Save the Children International 48 per cent of girls were married by the age of 15 while 78 per cent became wives before 18.

The figures indicate that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, the organisation said.

“According to the report the percentage of people aged 20-49 years who were first married or in union before age 18 for women was 44.1 per cent while men accounted for six per cent. The percentage of young people aged 15-19 years who are currently married or in a union for women was 22.2 per cent while no man was in such a union.

“The percentage of people from 15-49 years who are in a polygynous union for women was 36.9 per cent while men accounted for 18.7 per cent. This is proof that Early Child Marriage affects quite a large number of women and girls,” the organisation said in the statement.

Save the Child International noted that poverty plays a significant role in the rising number of child brides in Nigeria.

It noted that poverty often leads to deprivation of education, a contributory factor to forced child marriage.

The statement added, “Purity Oriaifo, Save the Children International Nigeria’s Girl Champion, says, ‘If a girl is out of school, the likelihood of getting married at an early age is very high. When a girl is married young, she is robbed of her childhood and opportunities to realise her full potential.

“She has an increased risk of poor health outcomes, having children at a younger age, dropping out of school, experiencing ongoing violence in the home, being restricted in her mobility, left with limited decision-making ability, and earning less over her lifetime’.”

The statement further identified cultural, social and other practices responsible for forced marriage and called for the full implementation of policies that eradicate the problem in Nigeria.

“The government at all levels should prioritise the passage into law of the Child Rights Act (2003). This will provide children with the necessary legal policy framework for seeking justice when their rights are denied or abused,” the statement said.

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