At a gender policy forum held on Monday, a women and girls advocacy group, Women Advocacy Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), revealed that 45 percent of Nigerian women get married before the age of 18.
Citing United Nations statistics, the organization also announced that girls under 17 are responsible for 7.3 million babies in developing countries.
WARDC gave its presentation at the Lagos @ 50: Gender Policy Dialogue, which was held in Ikeja on Monday.
According to a report on the status of women’s rights in Nigeria presented by WARDC, Jigawa, Bauchi and Yobe states have the highest number of child marriages with 87 percent, 84 percent and 81 percent, respectively. On the other hand, Abia State has lowest with 9 percent, followed by Lagos with 11 percent, and Imo and Osun both with 15 percent.
The report said although the constitution of Nigeria has pinned the age of consent at 18 years, 45 percent of girls are married off before their 18th birthday and 17 percent before they turn 15.
“Legislation favorable to women has been passed, especially at the state level, but often these have had little positive impact on women’s lives. There is little effort and commitment on the part of the government to enforce or implement the laws passed. Women themselves continue to be held back from seeking justice when such laws are breached for reasons of cultural beliefs, fear of reprisals from family members and lack of confidence in the justice system,” the report read.
WARDC suggested that there is a need for the country to reassess the level and effectiveness of its gender equality commitment in order to improve the lives of women and girls who make up the larger part of the Nigerian population.
The group added that women in Nigeria have always been active economically but their involvement has not been rewarded with commensurate degrees of political power vis-à-vis men, stating that only 5.6 percent of members of the House of Representative and 6.5 percent of senators are women.
Speaking at the event, the executive director of the center, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said the policy dialogue was organized to support the government and the Nigerian people in shaping policies that will further promote gender equality and women’s development in Lagos State.
“The Lagos @ 50: Gender Policy Dialogue will build on successes achieved by Lagos State and the efforts of civil society organizations in promoting a state that is disposed to gender mainstreaming. While this represents reality, there is still a lot to be done to support gender mainstreaming and more inclusion of the women in key sectors in the state,” she said.