BY EBUN SESSOU
Isaac Ayo Olawuyi, Bishop, Diocese of Lagos West, Methodist Church of Nigeria, in this interview, explains the religious implications of subjecting the girl child to early marriage.
Is there any age restriction to marriage in Christendom?
The controversy of a section of the Child Right Bill which is section 29 (4b) that indicates “child marriage” has been on the front burner and it is quite unfortunate. In the first place, I thought the issue was child’s play, but the fact remains that these honourable men of the Upper House should transfer their energy to matters of interest to the generality of Nigerians.
From my scriptural understanding, there is no age restriction in marriage. But nobody would ever think of putting a child into such a critical condition as marriage. Marriage should be for adults and not children. In this 21st century, any girl less than 18 years should be regarded as a child. And anybody that is below 18 years should not be encouraged to go into adult affairs.
The Bible would never support the act of subjecting a child into business that is meant for adults which is guided by maturity. The fact that a10-year-old girl can menstruate does not indicate that she is mature enough to handle marriage. Therefore, it is completely out of order to support or allow child marriage in the country.
At what age should a girl be given out in marriage?
I believe a girl that is serious with her life would prefer to further her education rather than subject herself to such a ridiculous scenario.
No reputable higher institution of learning will admit a child below 15 years. Therefore, the girl who is ready for marriage would have attained the age of 18 before talking about marriage. And in a situation where the parents of the girl are not financially bouyant to sponsor her education, she would have received a particular training. This means that the girl is mature both physically and intellectually.
But this practice is not restricted to Nigeria?
Traditionally, marriage should not be considered a public subject. Rather, it should be a private issue. There are different cultures and religions in the country.
A particular religion or culture has its way of handling marriage. In those days, families gave their children to each other from their childhood, but the children would stay with their families until they were mature and on the condition that they liked each other.
But any act of giving out a child’s hand in marriage is devilish and barbaric. It is an act of oppression. It is also child abuse to subject a girl less than 18 to marriage. It is an act of exploitation, rape and the perpetrator should be considered a murderer.
Are you saying the couple should be of the same age?
I believe marriage should be between people of like minds. They might not be of the same age, but surely, they must be mature and intellectually sound. Anyone who marries a girl below 18 years old should be arrested and jailed by the government of the land. I see the act as child trafficking and child abuse.
What are the religious implications of early marriage for the girl child?
There are lots of implications including religious, social, health and physical. An underage girl who is forced into marriage has been deprived of her right to education. She cannot be independent in thought. She cannot take decisions of her own.
It is very bad and I don’t think any true religion would permit exploitation, oppression, ravaging, undue subjection of another life to torment. And I don’t think any girl in her right senses would want to subject herself to early marriage or another form of slavery. There are many adverse and uncomplimentary implications on the life of the girl and the society at large.