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Child Marriage in Nigeria: the Human Rights and Public Health Implications

A.G. Nmadu
I.A. Joshua
A.I Onyemocho
Z.K. Mohammad-Idris
F. Adiri


Child marriage, a global scourge that is practised in many parts of the world, remains prevalent in Africa, including Nigeria and is deeply entrenched in culture and religion. It is not uncommon to find girls below the age of 12 years being betrothed to marriage, especially in the northern part of the country where many girls are given away to marriage without their consent and this denies the basic human rights of these children, putting them in a disadvantaged position.

This paper is a narrative review of the prevalence, causes and consequences of child marriage, status in Nigeria using literature searches of peer-reviewed articles published between 1990 and 2017 in databases such as Pubmed, Medline, African Journals Online (AJOL), Bioline international, POPLINE and google scholar; and grey literature such as reports and research briefs from UNFPA, UNICEF, the Population Council.

Child marriage is still prevalent in Nigeria, especially in the northern parts of the country. Reasons for child marriage in Nigeria include poverty; gender inequity; traditions and customs; weak legislative and institutional structures; and conflict and political instability. Child marriage has been found to have negative impacts on the children’s education, health, as well as on their dignity and integrity.

Aholistic multi-sectoral strategy is needed for ending child marriage in Nigeria, as well as raising awareness, encouraging behaviour change, and ensuring the implementation of the laws and policies that prohibit child marriage by the government of Nigeria. In addition, empowering girls with increased access to quality education, life building skills, economic support and supporting networks for affected girls cannot be overemphasized.

Keywords: Child marriage, Human rights, Child rights, Nigeria

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eISSN: 1117-4153