BY EBUN SESSOU
Barrister Itoro Eze-Anaba, a human rights activist, explains the legal implications of child marriage.
What is your opinion on the 1999 Constitution which says ‘any woman who is married shall be deemed of full age?’
Section 29(4)(b) of the Constitution is against all reason and practical wisdom. Are we saying any child that is married has suddenly become an adult based solely on the fact that she is married?
This is wrong because a child is a child. We should ask why old men like taking young girls as wives.
Children of the rich are given the opportunity to develop, go to school up to university level and at times postgraduate level before getting married.
In many instances, it is only children of the poor who suffer from early marriage, are withdrawn from school and given out in marriage to men old enough to be their fathers and grandfathers.
What are the legal implications of this section?
The section contradicts several international and regional human rights instruments signed and ratified by Nigeria. It even contradicts the Child Rights Act, a domestic legislation that states clearly that no person below the age of 18 shall be married. Is a child below 18 who marries and is deemed to be of full age allowed to vote?
How would you describe early marriage for a girl child?
Early marriage has many implications for the girl child. In the first instance, the girl child is not given the opportunity to mature and make informed choices about issues that affect her.
So she is robbed of decision- making powers. She is also denied the right to education as she is withdrawn from school in order to be married. Her right to development is therefore violated.
The girl child also faces severe health risks as a result of early marriage and pregnancy. Since her reproductive organs are not fully developed and ready for childbirth, she could die in the process and of course she stands the risk of VVF, which is more common among children having babies.
Would you support expunging this section from the Constitution?
I fully support the removal of this section from the Constitution.