Nigerian Constitution Technically Approved Child Marriage – FIDA

Mrs Folake Ajayi, Chairperson Oyo State Chapter of the Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA), has urged collaboration of all stakeholders in protecting the rights of the girl-child.

Ajayi made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Ibadan.

The lawyer said that although some states had domesticated the Child Rights Act, 2003, many girls still faced early marriage, genital mutilation, and rape, among other challenges.

“It is depressing that Section 29(4) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria technically approved child marriage.

“This is by its provision that any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.

“Child betrothal and marriage occur when a girl-child is betrothed and married off,’’ she noted.

Ajayi said that Sections 23 and 24 of the Oyo State Child Rights Law, 2006, prohibited child marriage and betrothal.

“Under the Child Rights Law, a child is said to be a person under the age of 18.

“Section 23 of the same law says a person under the age of 18 is incapable of contracting a valid marriage.

“If such a marriage does take place, it should be declared null and void and of no effect.

“There should be full enforcement of the law because a law that is not enforced, in my own opinion, is a toothless bulldog,’’ she said.

According to the FIDA chairperson, child rights can be divided into survival, protection, developments and participation rights.

She said that the rights of the girl-child in Nigeria were at a higher risk of being breached.

Ajayi noted that female genital mutilation (female circumcision) was still rampant.

“I define it as the gross violation of a female’s body and the wicked mutilation of her genital.

“ It is a calculated attempt to suppress and oppress the woman in a girl.

“Section 26 of Oyo State Child Rights Law prohibits mutilation of the female genital.

“Any one guilty of this offence is liable on conviction to a fine of N20, 000 or imprisonment for a term of two years.

Ajayi said that in spite of the prohibition of female genital mutilation, some mothers still subjected their daughters to it.

“Section 6 of Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015 carries a penalty of four years imprisonment and a fine of N200, 000 or both.

“I endorse this Act and ask for its domestication by Oyo State because it provides for a stiffer penalty and compensation for victims.”

She also noted that the girl-child was at the risk of being abducted as well as being used as exploitative labour.

“Section 31 of Oyo State Child Rights Law, 2006, prohibits exploitative labour, but a lot of girls are daily subjected to exploitative labour.

“In most homes in Oyo State, many underage girls are employed for domestic help,’’ she said.

The lawyer also regretted that girl were being sexually abused and raped.

“Rape is carnal knowledge of a girl or woman without her consent. Having sexual intercourse with a child an offence.”

Ajayi called on parents, teachers, religious organisations, the media, and law enforcement agencies to come together to protect the rights of the girl-child.

She said that FIDA was ready to partner with all the stakeholders in the protection of the rights.

The lawyer urged more awareness creation on the rights of the girl-child.

“Parents and guardians should be alive to their responsibilities; it is unfortunate that some parents still violate the rights of their children.

“Our young girls should see themselves as God’s creations that should rule their world,’’ she said.

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