With 23 million child brides, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), refers to Nigeria as the “home of child marriages in Africa”.
Ina report titled ‘a profile of child marriage in Africa’, released on Thursday, the UN body said a total of 124 million children were forced into early marriages in Africa.
“Worldwide, more than 700 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday. Seventeen per cent of them, or 125 million, live in Africa,” the report read.
“More than one in three of these women and girls (over 40 million) entered into marriage or union before age 15. Nigeria is home to the largest number of child brides in Africa, with 23 million girls and women who were married in childhood.
“Girls in rural areas are twice as likely to become child brides as girls from urban areas. Similarly, girls from the poorest households are twice as likely to marry before age 18 as girls from the richest households.”
UNICEF noted that if child marriages continue with current trends, the African continent would have as much as 310 million child brides by 2050, a size as big as the population of the entire United States.
“If current levels persist, the total number of child brides in Africa will rise from 125 million to 310 million by 2050,” the UNICEF added, while unveiling the report in Lusaka, Zambia.
The report highlights slow rates of reduction, combined with rapid population growth, as major causes for the projected increase.
Nkosozana Zuma, chairperson of the African Union (AU), who also spoke on the report said: “child marriage generates norms that have become increasingly difficult to exterminate – norms that undermine the value of our women”.
She also highlighted that the AU launched a campaign in May to end marriges below 18 years across the continent.
Anthony Lake, UNICEF executive director, said the report shows the “number of girls affected – and what this means in terms of lost childhoods and shattered futures — underline the urgency of banning the practice of child marriage once and for all”.
At its annual meeting in Peru, the World Bank and IMF said from research they discovered that the average marriage age for girls in rural Nigeria is 17.