This post is part two of a two part series. Read the first post, with some stories about early marriage, here.
Though marriage is different from one society to the next due to cultural, traditional, and religious differences, various international human rights documents reinforce the importance of a consistent standard of norms to be applied in marriage, particularly on issues of age, consent, and equality within marriage. Such documents include, for example, article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948, which states that:
Other instruments such as Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and African Charter on the Rights of the Child, reiterate this position. In fact, the African Charter prohibits child marriage and instead suggests that legislation should be enacted to make 18 the minimum age for marriage.
So what is being done to make sure these doctrines are enforced, and child marriage is prevented? Advocacy Nigeria – a network of volunteer advocates of which I am a part—has been working in six states in northern Nigeria, including Kano, to help ensure that these international standards are achieved in the local level. Also noteworthy is IWHC partner Adolescent Health and Information Projects (AHIP), an excellent organization which has been working to sensitize young adolescent girls and boys to understand their sexuality, and to also empower them with income-generating activities in order to live a healthy life. In fact, I am a beneficiary of this training because I was trained as a peer health educator in AHIP, and many youth like me are still being trained.
Further, I call on policy makers and other relevant stake holders to pursue the following action steps:
If our dream is to ensure a free and democratic society with a great and dynamic economy, a just and healthy life for women must be made a priority. Early and forced marriage is a threat to adolescent girls’ health and rights, and must be addressed aggressively.
Nura Iro Maaji is a Program Officer at the Society for Youth Awareness and Health Development (SYAHD), and an Administrative Assistant with Advocacy Nigeria. He will be attending this year’s African Federation on Sexual Health and Rights Conference in Ethiopia.