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Nigeria’s Mothers’ Union rejects child marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, August 16, 2013 p 7. August 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Marriage, Youth/Children.
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The President of the Mothers’ Union of Nigeria has joined civil and women’s rights activists in the West African nation in denouncing the country’s senate for blocking a bill to that would have banned child marriages.

On 6 August 2013 Mrs Nkasiobi Okoh, president of the MU and wife of the primate Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, told a women’s Christian conference in Abuja Anglican women were “categorically” opposed to allowing child marriage.

The question of child marriage was brought before the legislature this month when the senate debated a series of constitutional amendments proposed by the Constitution Review Committee. A proposed amendment to Section 29 of the constitution states that a citizen must be of full age in order to renounce his or her citizenship, and clause 29(4)(a) clarifies that “full age” means 18 years or above; however, clause 29(4)(b) adds that “any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.”

The Review Committee recommended striking the latter clause as discriminatory against women and the measure was approved by vote of 75 to 14, receiving the necessary two-thirds majority.

However on 28 July the Sunday Trust reported that Deputy Minority Leader Ahmed Sani Yerima objected to the removal of the clause as it implied that 18 years was the minimum age for marriage. He told the senate “under Islamic law, any woman who is married is of age, and if you say 18 years is the minimum age for marriage, then you are going against Islamic law.”

The senate voted to reconsider the amendment, which received only 60 votes in its second reading – 14 short of the two-thirds majority.

In a statement following the vote the NGO “Girls not Brides” said: “This does not mean that senators voted to legalize child marriage in Nigeria. The contentious clause has been part of the constitution since 1979, and its scope has always been limited to the question of renunciation of citizenship. However, the senators’ decision to retain the clause, particularly in view of the arguments that convinced them to do so, has been considered by many as an implicit legitimization of child marriage.”

The Child Rights Act adopted by the Senate in 2003 sets the minimum age of marriage at 18. However only two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states have endorsed it, and in some Muslim-majority states girls may be married as young as 12 years of age, “Girls not Brides” reports. And according to a UNICEF report, 39 per cent of Nigerian brides in 2000-2008 were under 18.

Mrs Okoh said Anglican women were opposed to child marriages, as they fostered the oppression of women and robbed girls of their future. “We have always been emphasising that girls should be trained, when they are trained, we are influencing not only their home, but the wider community, that is my belief and I know that, that is what our women believed,” she said, according to the Vanguard Newspaper.