KWARA State government has decried high rate of child marriage in the State, threatening to prosecute perpetrators of such practice.
Speaking at a one-day technical session for civil society organizations and government representatives on End Child Bride project organised by the Women and Youth Development Initiative (WOYODEV) in Ilorin on Thursday, the State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajia Taibat Ahmed, said that statistics had shown that about six million girls get married by age 15 in Nigeria, with the state adding significantly to the number.
Hajia Ahmed, who said that the state government had raised the minimum age of marriage at 18 years and passed Child Right Act in 2006, added that it would help the girl child in the state lead a wholesome life for her to achieve her dreams.
“We will continue to seek partnership and give support to individuals, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society organisations (CSOs) to address issues affecting women and girls and the community at large with the interest of ending child marriage and other child rights issues.
“Child marriage which has its root cause in socio-cultural beliefs, ignorance and poverty, has various side effects as it puts our girls at high risk of health complications including HIV, VVF and maternal mortality. As such child marriage is a barrier to socio-economic development as it represents a detrimental life-course shift during the crucial period of adolescence,” she said.
Also speaking, the Executive Director WOYODEV, Tosin Ajayi, said that her organisation had so far registered no fewer than 6,000 girls vulnerable to early marriage.
Mrs Ajayi also said that other criteria considered in registering the girls include those without parents, those with the indigent background, out of school girls and those already in the early marriage.
She said that the menace of early girl child marriage is prevalent in Kwara North senatorial district of the state, adding that the practice was also rampant in other senatorial districts of the State.
“In the developing world, Nigeria inclusive, one in three girls is married before 18 and one in nine before the age of 15. A confluence of social, economic, cultural and political factors perpetuate this harmful practice, while right in the nexus of all these factors is unequal norms and power relations that devalue and restrict women and girls.
“In Nigeria, the number of girls affected by child marriage is high and this is due largely to the population of our country.
According to statistics, Nigeria ranks 14th among the 20 countries with the highest rate of child marriage in the world,” she said.