Buhari Pledges To Sustain Efforts To End Child Marriage

President Muhammadu Buhari attends an event to commission the headquarters building of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in Abuja on January 16, 2020.

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has given the assurance that the Federal Government will sustain ongoing efforts to end child marriage and improve girl-child education in the country.

He gave the assurance on Thursday while commissioning the headquarters building of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in Abuja.

According to the President, it is the collective duty of all to ensure that mothers of today and tomorrow are educated, encouraged and empowered.

“Our quest is to ensure that concerns of women, children, and other vulnerable citizens are given prominence and ultimately addressed,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his media adviser, Femi Adesina.

President Buhari added, “A key priority of our government is the development and implementation of social inclusion and economic sustenance policies. Our determination is to ensure that economic growth and prosperity are felt by as wide a circle as possible.

“In particular, we are laying great emphasis on the education of the girl-child. The high level of young girls who are out of school or unable to complete school due to socio-economic pressures is disturbing and must be addressed.”

President Muhammadu Buhari speaks during the commissioning of the headquarters building of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in Abuja on January 16, 2020.

 

 

President Buhari noted that the launch of the National Strategy to End Child Marriage (2016 – 2021) has been the first critical step towards increasing children’s access to quality all-round education.

He explained that the strategy also aimed to enhance the retention of the girl-child in schools across the country.

The President urged the ministry to continue to champion and coordinate all matters relating to the plight of Nigerian women and the most vulnerable citizens.

He assured Nigerian women of his continued support and determination to see that the ministry delivers on its mandate.

President Buhari applauded positive contributions from the ministry and other relevant government agencies in reducing human trafficking incidents and maternal mortality.

He said, “I expect this ministry to maintain its lead coordinating role on these, and other women’s related matters working with state governments, as well as our regional and international partners.”

In her remarks, the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, thanked the President for recognising the role of women in nation-building, and for supporting the completion of the headquarters of the women ministry.

She, however, urged President Buhari to appoint more women to leadership positions in his government.

Tallen pledged that her ministry would double efforts to improve girl-child education in the country while advancing the welfare of vulnerable persons and women.

Tanzania Court Prohibits Marrying Girls Under 18 Years

 

A picture of the Tanzanian flag

 

A Tanzanian court has upheld a law banning the marriage of girls under the age of 18 in a ruling praised by rights activists.

The High Court in 2016 ruled that laws allowing girls as young as 15 to be married with the permission of their parents, or even 14 with the permission of a court, were unconstitutional and discriminatory.

However the state had appealed the ruling.

“We reject this appeal as it has no foundation,” the appeals court judges wrote in their ruling on Wednesday.

In an initial ruling the court found the current law discriminatory, as the legal age for men to marry is 18, and said it was contradictory that a girl considered too young to vote would be allowed to marry.

“It is a great day for Tanzanian girls,” the NGO Wasichana Initiative, which fights for the rights of young girls, wrote on Twitter.

“It is a joyful day for all girls and all those who want what is best for them,” said Anna Henga of Tanzania’s main rights group, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC).

On average, two out of five Tanzanian girls are married before their 18th birthday, according to government statistics.

 

AFP

Outrage In Turkey Over ‘Child Marriage Green Light’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan                                                                                                          OZAN KOSE / AFP

Turkey’s religious affairs state agency came under heavy criticism on Thursday from the main opposition party after it reportedly said girls as young as nine could marry under Islamic law.

The Diyanet religious affairs directorate said on Tuesday the minimum age for girls to marry was nine, while for boys it was 12, according to Turkish media including Hurriyet daily quoting the agency’s official website.

The post, which took the form of an explanatory statement on Islamic law, has since been taken down, after a backlash from the opposition and women’s rights groups.

The head of the High Commission of Religious Affairs Ekrem Keles on Thursday told Hurriyet that the earliest age for a girl to marry is 17 and 18 for a boy.

“Forget a nine or a 10 year old child marrying, a child at 15 should not marry and should not be married,” he said.

The legal age to get married in Turkey is 18.

But Turkish law says that in an extraordinary circumstance, a judge can give permission for a male and female aged 16 to marry.

The controversy touched a nerve in Turkey, where child marriages are not uncommon and the fight continues to raise girls’ level of education.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Gaye Usluer accused the government of being “more interested in how to marry children at a young age when there needs to be talk on children’s education, health”.

Meanwhile CHP lawmaker Murat Bakan on Twitter said child marriages “violates children’s rights, women’s rights and human rights”, adding that the party had called for a parliamentary investigation into child marriages.

Women’s rights groups also criticised the agency, which is similar to a religious affairs ministry, accusing it of trying to legitimise child abuse and urging Diyanet to “get their hands off our children”.

The ministry said it had “never and will never approve early marriages” in a statement, saying it was only defining Islamic law.

“Forcing girls to marry before psychological and biological maturity, and before they obtain the responsibility to become a mother and form a family is not compatible with Islam which says will and consent are conditions for marriage,” it added.

Women’s groups as well as Usluer raised concern over Diyanet’s move coming after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved a controversial law in November allowing state-approved clerics to conduct marriage ceremonies.

“When we said ‘if you give muftis (clerics employed by Diyanet) the power to conduct marriages, the issue of child brides will increase’, this is what we meant,” she said, according to CHP’s website.

Opponents often claim that Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party are attacking the republic’s secular foundations, claims dismissed by the government.

In 2016, the government was forced to throw out a bill that could have pardoned men convicted of child-sex assault after a public outcry.

AFP

Ooni Decries High Rate Of Child Marriage

Ooni Decries High Rate Of Child Marriage
File photo

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, has decried the high rate of early child marriage and all forms of challenges confronting the Nigerian child in the society.

Oba Adeyeye expressed his concern as he celebrated his birthday with a delegation from Children of Africa Leadership and Values Development Initiative (CALDEV) at his palace in Ile-Ife, Osun state.

He, however, vowed to use his position to defend the rights of children from all forms of danger and challenges they face in the society.

“It is very important to fill the extra gap in bringing moral back to children, that is why I am actually taking my time to celebrate with them. I celebrate with them on a daily basis. They are the heritage of any nation,” the traditional ruler said.

The team from CALDEV, a non-governmental organisation, was led on the visit on Monday by their president, Honourable Bamidele Salam.

Honourable Salam explained that the aim of the group was to train children on what leadership entails and ensure that they were given a fairer deal in the country.

He, however, said the children suffer most in any crisis or war and other problems in Nigeria but promised that the group would strive to expose the children to the realities of life in line with international best practice.

The group also decorated Oba Adeyeye as its grand patron and urged him not to relent in his support for children development.

Ortom Seeks Northern Governors’ Support Against Child Marriage

child marriage in Nigeria Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has asked political leaders, especially Northern governors, to join the campaign against child marriage by creating educate opportunities for the girl child instead of rushing them into early marriage.

Mr Ortom made the call in Makurdi, the Benue state capital at a meeting organised by the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, to mobilise support for sound educational and economic base for women in the state.

The Minister, who sought Governor Ortom’s support against child marriage said that the Federal Government had prepared a 1.6 billion Naira empowerment fund for women in 2017.

She also told the women at the gathering that 40 women had been trained in key areas of trade.

She encouraged them to be prudent with the fund, to enable the government increase the allocation subsequently.

Child marriage has assumed alarming rate in Nigeria, particularly in Northern Nigeria where the practice created national outcry in Katsina State recently.

The campaign against child marriage and women empowerment enjoys massive support in Benue, but it remains to be seen if the support will spread across the entire Northern Nigeria, where child marriage practice is high.

Deadline For Child Marriage

In November, the Canadian government appealed to the Nigerian government to come out with concrete plans to end what it described as huge burden of child bride on Nigeria.

Canadian High Commissioner, Mr Christopher Thornley, made the appeal at a meeting held to discuss more efforts needed to end child marriage.

According to him, two in every five girls in Africa are given in marriage before they attain age 19 and Nigeria has the highest record of such marriages.

“In Africa, two out of five girls are married before the age of 19. In Nigeria, I’m sorry to say this, but I’m also very heartened that we see people here, like yourselves, who are addressing the issue.

“In Nigeria there are more child brides than in any other country. Part of that is that Nigeria is such a huge country. Absolutely the numbers will be high, but there are massive numbers of young girls being married in this country as children,” he told a gathering of government officials, representatives of different organisations and right activists.

After that appeal, the Nigerian government launched a campaign to protect the girl child, setting a deadline to end child marriage.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo explained that all departments and agencies would be made to ensure compliance as the country has set a 2030 target to totally end child marriage.

The campaign, which is launched alongside 15 other African Union member countries, is to highlight the physical, mental and social effects of marrying a girl before the age of 18.

Nigerian Government Moves To End Child Marriage

child-brideThe Nigerian government has taken a firm step to stop child marriage in the nation, with a campaign to protect the girl child launched on Tuesday by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Professor Osinbajo explained that all departments and agencies will be made to ensure compliance as the country has set a 2030 target to totally end child marriage.

The campaign, which is launched alongside 15 other African Union member countries is to highlight the physical, mental and social effects of marrying a girl before the age of 18.

The launch of the campaign is coming few days after the Canadian government demanded for more concrete plans from the Nigerian government to end what it described as huge burden of child bride on Nigeria.

Canadian High Commissioner, Mr Christopher Thornley, made the appeal on Friday at a meeting held to discuss more efforts needed to end child marriage.

According to him, two in every five girls in Africa are given in marriage before they attain age 19 and Nigeria has the highest record of such marriages.

“In Africa, two out of five girls are married before the age of 19. In Nigeria, I’m sorry to say this, but I’m also very heartened that we see people here, like yourselves, who are addressing the issue.

“In Nigeria there are more child brides than in any other country. Part of that is that Nigeria is such a huge country. Absolutely the numbers will be high, but there are massive numbers of young girls being married in this country as children,” he told the gathering of government officials, representatives of different organisations and right activists.

He said that the African Union (AU) campaign to end child marriage was raising awareness and accelerating change.

“Nigeria has signed on to this campaign and we are working with the government in support of its work to end child marriage.

“There is a national strategy that will be launched next week and I know that this meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss some of the elements of that strategy and if any of you is feeding into that, please go back to what I said about the age 18 definition.

“It is very important that that be embedded in the strategy and there is resistance in Nigeria to that, as you know.

“It is not enough to have a strategy, concrete action must be taken to put plans into actions and to accomplish concrete results,” he added.

FG To Launch National Campaign Against Child Marriage

Child MarriageThe Federal Government has announced plans to launch a national campaign to end child marriage in 2016.

The Director of Women and Gender Affairs at the Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs Esther Mshelia, said this at a meeting organised by the Ministry to sensitize those responsible for child protection at the state level.

She said that the launch will help mobilize support to end the upsurge in early child marriages and also address barriers to prosecution of culprits.

Deliberating on how the menace of child marriage can be put to an end, officials of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development said that they do not want a re-occurrence of the ugly incident of the abduction of Ese Oruru and several other young girls.

Discussions at the meeting also focused on how to work with key players in ensuring that the rights of the girl child is not violated as statistics from the ministry shows that Nigeria has a high prevalence of child marriage with the north eastern region ranking highest with 26%.

While early child marriage exposes the girl child to diseases and population explosion, health experts believe the menace also causes Nigeria a huge economic burden.

One key decision made at the meeting is that cases of early marriage must be reported and culprits appropriately sanctioned to serve as a deterrent to others.

Soyinka, Falana Demand Better Welfare For Nigerian Child

welfareThe Nigerian government has been asked to take more proactive steps to ensure the safety, education and improved welfare for the Nigerian child.

Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, and human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), made the call on Sunday at a press conference in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

In his speech, Professor Soyinka condemned those who are weaving religion sentiment around child marriage.

“When you damage a child because of your own depravity, you ruin that child for life (and) traumatise that child. Whether you say you believe in any religion, you are committing a crime.

“We are against crimes committed (that are) defined by the constitution (and) the legal structure that binds us all together,” he said.Soyinka

Professor Soyinka also asked the Police to take charge in securing the safety of all citizens, saying that they are the first call in curbing crime.

“They should be the first call when the child goes missing and they cannot abandon the job until they have restored the child to the rightful parent,” he said.

Playing on the Intelligence of Nigerians

Mr Falana on his part, was displeased with child marriage, stressing that it was illegal to marry a girl without the approval of the parent.

“The law says under 18, it is illegal to marry out anybody and in this case, whether in the north or in the south, you cannot marry out a girl without the approval of the parent” he said.

Femi-FalanaThe Senior Advocate noted that those referring to religion are playing on the intelligence of Nigerians, adding that it was the responsibility of the government to cater for every underage child found hawking on the streets.

“Under the Child’s Right Act, every child must be put in school at the expense of the state and that applies to Lagos or any of the states in the south where we have children on the streets who are hawking all manners of goods,” he said.

Mr Falana attributed the street hawking to the high rate of abuses on the child such as kidnap and rape, calling on the citizens to retrieve all underage children that have been forced into illegal marriages.

NHRC Stops 40-Year-Old Man’s Marriage To A Minor

NHRCThe National Human Rights Commission has stopped the planned marriage of a 40-year-old man to a 13-year-old girl who is a primary 5 pupil of POWA Primary School in Abuja.

The marriage, which was billed to take place on July 24 in Abuja, was halted by the Commission after an investigation.

A statement by the Chief Press Officer of the Commission, said that following a tip off, the Commission interrupted the ceremony and retrieved the minor from the offender’s house and invited all parties involved to the Commission including the groom to be, one Mr. Ibrahim, who had full knowledge that the girl was less than 18 years of age prescribed by Law.

After thorough interrogations, the Commission cited the relevant laws to back its decision to stop the marriage, including Sections 21, 22, 23 of the Child Rights Act 2003 which prohibits child marriage or betrothal, an offence which is punishable by five years imprisonment or 500,000 naira fine.

The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Professor Bem Angwe, while referring the matter to the Commissioner of Police, FCT Command for prosecution, also expressed the determination of the Commission to ensure the implementation of the Child Rights Act and its enforcement against all persons irrespective of their status or religious belief.

The Executive Secretary enjoined parents and guardians to be vigilant and ensure that their children and wards are not exposed to early marriage which does not only offend the law but has psychological, social and health implications.

Culture Of Silence In Nigeria And Rising Gender Based Violence

Sexual_violenceTalks on violence against women in Nigeria in recent times is slowly becoming regular, as cases of gender based violence continues on a rapid rise.

From rape cases to kidnap of girls and women in northern part of Nigeria, these crimes have remained unabated.

A girl was forced into child marriage in which she suffered abuse and constant battery until her husband died.

She was forced to remarry, taking along her daughter who again was abused by her step-father who also continued to abuse and batter her mother.

An ‘Epidemic’

Another child suffered consistent defilement by two men, suffering psychological damages until she became addicted to sex. she is still nine years old, but addicted to sex.

These are just some of the many common cases women in Nigeria face and many times theses cases are unreported and without support or immediate solution. Some gender activists have called it an ‘epidemic’.

Gender activists say the culture of silence, weak laws and lack of support for victims of violence against women and girls are some reasons for increase in the crime.

As at 2006, a national survey puts percentage of victims of gender violence and abuse at 64.5% and this has multiplied in the last eight years.

The reason for this prevalence, according to Founder, Women Aid Initiative, Dr. Joy Ezeilo, is the weak nature of the laws, wrong socialisation and lack of information.

India and South Africa are top on the list of countries with a high rate of Gender Based Violence.

Gender activists, Kate Henshaw, Aisha Babangida and Christine Kay fear Nigeria runs a risk of topping that chart unless  actions are taken now to address the trend.

Experts have also said that violence against women was not women’s issue but that of the men who are the perpetrators, and also society’s business, which needed to be tackled decisively.

In Nigeria, besides the culture of silence and societal stigmatisation, information for women and the vulnerable as well as support for victims are still grossly inadequate making the fight against gender based violence a long walk yet to begin. These are some of the challenges needed to be addressed in order to end the increasing rate of Gender Based Violence.

Investigate Rape Of Two Year Old Girl, Senate Tells IGP

The Nigerian Senate has asked the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohamed Abubakar, to investigate the alleged rape of a two-year old girl by a Police Corporal.

While considering a motion on ‘Cruelty to Infants’ on Thursday, the lawmakers condemned the act in its entirety and asked its committee on Police Affairs to investigate the issue.

There have been records of several acts of cruelty to babies in Nigeria including kidnapping and sexual abuse. There have also been reports of babies sold as commodities.

Worried by the trend, the Senate in plenary considered a motion on an alleged rape of a two year old girl by a Police officer.

The motion, moved by Sen. Helen Esuene, led to the questioning of the status of the bills and resolutions before the Senate that could provide protection for victims of similar acts.

This is one motion that has given the lawmakers an opportunity to correct any impressions Nigerians may have had about them after the Child Marriage drama during the constitution amendment.

 

#ChildNotBride: Senate Got Its Priorities Wrong, Says SERAP

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the Senate President David Mark “seeking urgent explanations on why the Senate chose to spend time on revisiting the sensible deletion of child marriage provision in the Constitution rather than use the time to discuss how to make citizens’ enjoyment of water, healthcare, electricity as fundamental rights.”

In the letter made available to Channels Television, the organisation said that “we are seriously concerned that the discussion in the Senate has focused rather disappointingly on how to undermine children’s internationally recognised human rights rather than how to improve the conditions of millions of Nigerians living in poverty through the entrenchment of a progressive Bill of Rights that will recognise access of Nigerians to water, healthcare, education and electricity as fundamental rights in the new constitution.”

“By failing to discuss these important issues as fundamental rights, the Senate simply ignored feedbacks from 279 constituencies across the country, and moved in the opposite direction from the House of Representatives that has discussed making citizens’ enjoyment of clean water, adequate healthcare, quality and uninterrupted education, and regular and affordable electricity as fundamental rights,” the organisation said.

The organisation also said that “given your indication to SERAP of your support for the ECOWAS court’s judgment declaring that the Nigerian government has a legal responsibility to provide as of right, free, quality and compulsory basic education to every Nigerian child, we urge to use your leadership and position to revisit these issues and to ensure that the Senate does not miss this important opportunity to end the legacy of poverty and inequality in the country by adopting a progressive Bill of Rights that includes internationally recognized human rights like education, housing, health care, water reform and social security.”

“Unless this action is urgently taken, the socio-economic legacy of the past would be perpetuated and continue to generate classes of people marginalised from full participation in our fragile democracy,” the organisation warned.

The organisation also said that, “we are seriously concerned that Nigeria is lagging behind other African countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe that adopted the Nigerian model of directive principles in 1980 but are now engaged in public debates on the inclusion of legally enforceable economic and social rights in their constitutions. Also, the South African Constitution is renowned for its inclusion of a comprehensive range of justiciable economic, social, cultural and environmental rights in its Bill of Rights.”

“We strongly believe that a simple vote, without food shelter and health care is to use first generation rights as a smokescreen to obscure the deep underlying forces which dehumanise people. It is to create an appearance of equality and justice, while by implication socio-economic inequality is entrenched. We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom. Nigeria must provide for all the fundamental rights and freedoms associated with a democratic society,” the organization also said.

The organization also said that, “We believe that human dignity, freedom and equality are denied those who have no food, clothing and shelter. Affording socio-economic rights to all people therefore enables them to enjoy the other rights which are already recognised and guaranteed in our Constitution. We see the Nigerian constitution as a mirror. A mirror that should: show protection from shelters being demolished; show protection from being chased out of school or hospital queues. Guaranteeing economic and social rights in any new Nigerian Constitution would also help to address the injustice and systemic marginalisation of millions of Nigerians, and denial of access to basic necessities of life.”

The organisation also said that, “a Bill of Rights in a supreme Constitution usually sets out the fundamental values and normative commitments of a country. It functions to guide the legislative, executive and administrative conduct of the institutions of State. Furthermore, it provides a potentially powerful mechanism for civil society, communities and independent commissions to hold public, and in appropriate circumstances, private actors accountable for human rights violations. It is particularly significant in enabling marginalised groups, who lack access to political and popular power and influence, to assert and protect their fundamental interests.”

“A progressive Bill of Rights is absolutely important to the future ethical, democratic and developmental character of Nigeria. A Bill of Rights should be genuinely responsive to the aspirations of ordinary people,” the organization concluded.

.