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Child marriage: exercise caution on constitution amendment, lawyers warn senate

Lagos – Some prominent lawyers, among others, on Monday, advised the Nigerian Senate to exercise caution in the amendment of the 1999 Constitution.

The lawyers spoke in separate interviews with journalists in Lagos in reaction to the refusal of the Senate to delete Section 29(4) (b) of the Constitution in the amendment.

The section states that “any woman who is married shall be deemed of full age”.

A constitutional lawyer, Mr Sebastine Hon (SAN), told Reporters that the issue of marriage was not a constitutional issue.

“If you peruse nearly all the constitutions of other countries, you will not find anything concerning the regulation of marriage age.

“I think they went out of their way to do that because they are not even supposed to deliberate on the issue,” Hon said.

He said that the issue of marriage age should be left to each state to decide based on the culture and religion of the people.

Mr Chino Obiagwu, the National Coordinator,Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), a human rights group, said the issue of marriage was on the Concurrent List.

“I consider the debate in the Senate to be unnecessary because the Child Rights Act has clearly stated that 18 years is the minimum age for marriage.

“However, some states that have not domesticated the Child Rights Act are not bound and so they still practice early marriage due to religious and cultural reasons,” Obiagwu said.

On his part, a human rights activist, Mr Bamidele Aturu, said the issue was a product of legislative argument.

Aturu said:” How can anybody be supporting child marriage in this age and century?”

The Executive Director of the International Centre for Advocacy on Right to Health (ICARH) Mr Ifeanyi Orazulike, told NAN that endorsing child marriage would have a negative effect on the education of the girl child.

He said that such a move was not supposed to be coming at a time when there was a clamour for women empowerment.

“As a father who has a daughter, I was shocked to hear the news,’’ he said, noting that his group would continue to criticise the move.

The President, Federal Government Girls College, Kazaure, Old Girls Association, Mrs Yomi Newton, said the idea of child marriage was distasteful as it had negative effects on girls medically.

Newton, who is a medical laboratory scientist, told NAN on phone that girls should be encouraged to get educated instead of going into early marriage.

“Girls should be encouraged to get education, whether formal, informal, nomadic or vocational, before they are betrothed, “ she said.

Mrs Lizzy Omojuwa-Oboh, a banker, said early child marriage should not be encouraged.

“ Give the girl child her classroom and not a bedroom; give her a bright future and not early marriage; when you train a girl child and you train a whole nation, “ she said.

Mrs Kelechi Chimdika-Philip, a civil servant, told NAN in a telephone interview that child marriage had more negative effects than positive on the girl child.

“These innocent children can contact Sexually Contracted Diseases, (STD) Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF) and other pelvic complications because of the immaturity of the skin,’’ she said. (NAN)


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