Nigeria Struggles to Protect Child Brides

Underage marriage outlawed, but Muslim leaders support it

By Sarah Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 28, 2008 10:44 AM CST

(Newser) – In northern Nigeria, almost half the girls are married by age 15, and a law outlawing child marriage faces serious resistance from Muslim leaders, the Times of London reports. "We have no choice," says one teen who was brutally raped by her husband. As a result, fistula—a hole torn between the vagina and bladder or rectum during childbirth—and maternal death are common.

Young girls are the most frequent sufferers. Many are incontinent and sent away from their homes. "The woman ends up crippled for life: medically, socially, mentally, and emotionally," says a doctor who repairs the condition. Half of the country's states have adopted a 2003 law banning marriage under age 18, but the Muslim north resists. "In the Koran there is no specific age of marriage," says a cleric.

Locals flee after fighting broke out in Kano, Nigeria, April 18, 2007.   (AP Photo/George Osodi)
In northern Nigeria, nearly half of all girls are married by the age of 15.   (AP Photo/George Osodi)
Muslim girls attend prayers in Lagos, Nigeria, Dec. 19, 2007. In Nigeria, girls as young as 12 are forced to marry.   (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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It is important we have the right to marry our girls young so there is no risk of pregnancy outside marriage. It is to preserve the purity of our girls. - Usman, 84-year-old Nigerian man
who married a 14-year-old

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