United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has disclosed that Nigeria has the third-highest absolute number of child brides in the world and the 11th highest prevalence rate of child marriage globally.
This is as a new global study on the menace of child marriage has warned that the novel coronavirus could put an estimated four million girls in danger of enforced marriage.
According to UNICEF, child marriage is most common in the North West and North East where 68 percent and 57 percent of women aged 20-49 were married before their 18th birthday and particularly common among the poorest, rural households and the Hausa.
It quoted a 2017 World Bank study, which estimated that child marriage costs Nigeria $7.6 billion in lost earnings and productivity every year.
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys.
It stated that 73 percent of Nigerian women with no formal education were married before 18, compared to only nine percent who had completed higher education.
Further education is almost impossible for some girls, who have little choice but to depend on their husbands for the rest of their lives.
And the report compiled by International children’s charity, World Vision, almost one in every three girls worldwide is married before the age of 18.
World Vision explained that deepening poverty, caused by the pandemic, is likely to add further financial burdens onto families, causing them to marry off their daughters early.
It noted that four million girls are at risk of child marriage in the next two years because of the new coronavirus pandemic in the recent report.
“When you have any crisis like a conflict, disaster or pandemic rates of child marriage go up,” the charity’s child marriage expert, Erica Hall told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“If we don’t start thinking about how to prevent it now it will be too late. We can’t wait for the health crisis to pass first.”
The pandemic is also making it more difficult for girls to access reproductive health services which could lead to a rise in teenage pregnancies and increased pressure to marry.