Mass Wedding For Nigeria Orphans Sparks Uproar, Some Feared To Be Minors

Several Nigerian Human rights groups have also launched a petition to stop the mass wedding plan.

May 19, 2024 - 13:15
Mass Wedding For Nigeria Orphans Sparks Uproar, Some Feared To Be Minors

A Nigerian state lawmaker's plan to sponsor the marriage of 100 brides orphaned by violence has sparked a row over religious and cultural norms. According to BBC, some of these orphans, feared to be underage girls, are set to be married off on 24 May in the north-western state of Niger.

The wedding is being sponsored by Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, the speaker of the national assembly in the largely Muslim north-western state of Niger. However, critics have expressed concern that some girls may be underage or being forced to comply for financial gain.

Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, the federal women's affairs minister, called the ceremony unacceptable and demanded an investigation into the ages of the brides and whether they had consented to marriage. 

She said: ''I have written a petition to the police ... and I have filed a case for an injunction to stop him from whatever he is planning to do.''

A senior special assistant to the presidency on community engagement has also objected.

"I am not against conducting marriage for orphans above 18 years of age if they give their consent to the marriage, But I am against underaged marriage. Let children be children,'' she wrote on X.

Several Nigerian Human rights groups have also launched a petition to stop the mass wedding plan. 

''It is our firm belief that every child, regardless of their circumstances, has the right to education, protection, and a safe upbringing. The decision to marry off these vulnerable girls under the guise of preventing fornication is not only morally reprehensible but also a violation of their fundamental rights as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution,'' a petition on Change.org read. 

''We urge the Niger State Government to uphold its duty to protect the rights of these orphaned girls by prioritizing their education and well-being. Rather than subjecting them to forced marriages, we call upon the government to provide adequate support, including access to quality education and proper care in well-managed orphanage homes,'' the petition notes. 

Following the public outrage, Speaker Sarkindaji has announced his withdrawal from the ceremony. However, the Imams Forum of Niger said that the marriage ceremony should go ahead, insisting that the girls are not below the 18.

Child marriages are most common in the northern part of the country, among poor, rural households. It is seen as a way to reduce their families' financial burdens or to improve political and social alliances.

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