Bayelsa government reacts to marriage of four-year-old, summons parents

GOVERNMENT of Bayelsa state has reacted to the forced marriage between a four–year–old girl and a 54-year-old man, which occurred in Akeddei community in Sagbama Local Government Area (LGA), and summoned her parents over the development.

In a statement released on Saturday, December 30, the Gender Response Initiative Team and Ministry of Women Affairs, Children and Social Development described the union as illegal.

“We are taking steps to rescue the child from all the key actors in relation to this illegal ceremony that they tagged a ‘mere spiritual’ affair. The law is clear on issues of tradition and customs that are repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience and working with the Bayelsa State Police Command, we shall ensure incidents like this do not occur in the state again.

“On behalf of the governor of Bayelsa State, we express our gratitude to all the non-governmental organisations, including FIDA and DO Foundation that have risen to the rescue of this innocent child. Bayelsa State is children-friendly and this case will be pursued to a logical conclusion,” the statement partly read.

On Thursday, December 28, Child Rights Advocacy group ‘DO Foundation’ raised an alarm over the marriage which occurred on Tuesday, December 26.

A statement signed by the organisation’s Chairman Elvis Mannie, urged the state government and relevant agencies to address to the issue.

It was reported that the bride’s family initiated plans for the marriage between both parties, claiming that the child would die if the marriage did not take place.

The parents also claimed that the child said she had been married to the man in a previous life and could only be prevented from dying if the marriage took place.




     

     

    Forced marriage in  Nigeria has been a major challenge which has persisted for years.

    According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), four out of every ten girls in West and Central Africa were married before the age of 18, with Nigeria having the highest number of child brides globally.

    “As the most populous country in the region, Nigeria has the highest number of child brides. An estimated 22 million child brides live in Nigeria, which accounts for 40 percent of all child brides in the region,” a UNICEF report read.

    This has a ripple effect on education, sexual and reproductive health rights and other issues, worsening the gender imbalance that exists in the country despite being a part of plans by the United Nations (UN) to achieve gender equality by 2030.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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