The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged states in Nigeria that have yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act (CRA) to urgently adopt the law.
Africa’s most populous nation adopted the CRA in 2003 in line with the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
However, seven of the country’s 36 states – Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kebbi, Yobe, Kano and Zamfara – have yet to domesticate the law.
Nigeria operates a federal system of government, meaning laws passed by the National Assembly do not automatically become applicable in all of the country’s 36 states.
Child marriage, for instance, is a common practice in Nigeria rooted in traditional, economic, religious, and legal conditions that disproportionately affect girls and women.
The country’s rates of child marriage, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), are some of the highest in Africa.
‘It is disturbing that almost two decades after the Child Rights Act was passed, Nigerian girls are still being forced into child marriages’, HRW Africa Director, Mausi Segun, said in a statement.
Child marriage has deep and lasting impacts on women throughout their lives, as it prevents them from making their own life choices, disrupts their education, subjects them to violence and discrimination, and denies their full participation in economic, political, and social life.
‘Nigerian states should urgently act to adopt, implement, and align existing laws with the provisions of the Child Rights Act, which criminalises marriage before the age of 18 and protects girls’ rights’, he added.
HRW said that it remotely interviewed 16 married girls between the ages of 14 and 19 in Imo and Kano states in August and September 2021.
‘Some girls interviewed said they have tried to escape their forced marriages. One girl, married at 14, had run away six times in three years but family members returned her to her husband each time’, the human rights organisation noted.
The organisation called on all states in Nigeria to strengthen their laws and create effective systems to enforce them to guarantee the well-being and safety of girls.
Source: Human Rights Watch
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