HOME FRONT Do 45% of Nige­rian women get mar­ried be­fore their 18th birth­day?

‘45% of Nige­rian women mar­ried be­fore age 18’ read the head­line of a prom­i­nent Nige­ria-fo­cused pub­li­ca­tion. Is there data to back up this fig­ure?

Daily Trust - - DIGEST - By David Ajikobi

Re­searched by Africa Check

Though the le­gal age for mar­riage is sup­posed to be 18 years, 45% of Nige­rian women are mar­ried off be­fore then, a US-based on­line pub­li­ca­tion, Sa­hara Re­porters, re­cently high­lighted.

Sa­hara Re­porters car­ried a story about the launch of a re­port on the sta­tus of Nige­rian women au­thored by the Women Ad­vo­cacy Re­search and Doc­u­men­ta­tion Cen­tre, a cam­paign group that high­lights gen­der is­sues in Nige­ria.

The rights group’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Abi­ola Akiy­ode-Afo­labi, called for ex­ist­ing laws that pro­tect women to be en­forced. (Note: The Child Rights Act of 2003 - which sets the le­gal age of mar­riage at 18 - is yet to be en­acted by 13 states.)

Stat sourced from Girls not Brides

The Women Ad­vo­cacy Re­search and Doc­u­men­ta­tion Cen­tre pro­vided Africa Check with a copy of its re­port.

It stated that “43% of girls are mar­ried off be­fore their 18th birth­day”, at­tribut­ing the fig­ure to Girls Not Brides - a global net­work of more than 700 civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing to end child mar­riage.

In turn, Girls Not Brides cred­ited the statis­tic to a global re­port by the United Na­tions Chil­dren’s Fund. The agency’s 2016 State of the World’s Chil­dren re­port said that 43% of Nige­rian women aged be­tween 20 and 24 years were first mar­ried or in a union be­fore they were 18.

UNICEF’s source was Nige­ria’s 2013 De­mo­graphic and Health Sur­vey, UNICEF’s child data spe­cial­ist

Preva­lence of child mar­riage higher in the North

The 2013 De­mo­graphic and Health Sur­vey ques­tioned 38,948 women aged 15 to 49 across all states in a sur­vey con­ducted be­tween Fe­bru­ary and May 2013. The women were di­vided into five-year age brack­ets.

The sur­vey showed that 47.7% of women aged 20 to 49 were mar­ried by age 18, the pro­gramme’s se­nior ad­vi­sor for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Erica Ny­bro, told Africa Check. Zam­fara State had the low­est median age, at 14.5 years, with the median for the coun­try at 18.1 years.

But the sur­vey doesn’t of­fer mar­riage data for girls be­tween 18 and 20, or women older than 49.

In the first in­stance, girls in the age bracket 15 to 19 can’t yet an­swer whether they were first mar­ried by age 18 as many of them are still to reach that age. That is why the UN rec­om­mends look­ing at the 20 to 24 age bracket when mea­sur­ing and re­port­ing on child mar­riage.

Some coun­tries col­lect data on women older than 50, but Nige­ria does not have such in­for­ma­tion avail­able, Ny­bro told Africa Check.

“His­tor­i­cally, DHS sur­veys have al­ways in­ter­viewed women aged 15 to 49, pri­mar­ily be­cause those are con­sid­ered to be the re­pro­duc­tive years, and the DHS is, pri­mar­ily, a de­mo­graphic sur­vey,” she said.

Share of women first mar­ried by age 18 20-24 42.8% 25-29 46.3% 30-34 48.8% 35-39 48.3% 40-44 50.1% 45-49 55.5% Source: 2013 Nige­ria De­mo­graphic and Health Sur­vey

Poverty, cul­tural val­ues & re­li­gion push­ing up rates

The high preva­lence of child mar­riages in the north­ern part of the coun­try is swelling the na­tional per­cent­age, Em­manuela Azu, a pro­gramme staff of­fi­cer with the rights lobby, told Africa Check.

Fac­tors like the re­gion’s poverty ra­tio, cul­tural val­ues and re­li­gion drive the high child mar­riage rate, she said.

But with Nige­ria cur­rently re­view­ing its con­sti­tu­tion and a Gen­der Rights Bill mak­ing its way through par­lia­ment, ex­ist­ing laws such as the Child’s Rights Act are suf­fi­cient to pro­tect the rights of girls if en­forced, Azu told Africa Check.

Con­clu­sion: Avail­able info points to claim be­ing cor­rect

Nige­ria-fo­cused pub­li­ca­tion Sa­hara Re­porters stated that 45% of Nige­rian women are mar­ried be­fore the le­gal mar­riage age of 18.

Nige­ria’s 2013 De­mo­graphic and Health Sur­vey found that 47.7% of women aged 20 to 49 years were mar­ried be­fore their 18th birth­day. The share ranged from a low of 42.8% for women aged 20 to 24, to a high of 55.5% for women be­tween 45 and 49.

“This is an in­di­ca­tion of a grad­ual in­crease in age at mar­riage among the younger gen­er­a­tion,” the re­port stated.

While we don’t have data for 18 and 19-year olds or women older than 50, the avail­able in­for­ma­tion points to the claim be­ing cor­rect. Given this, we rate the Sa­hara Re­porters head­line - “45% of Nige­rian women mar­ried be­fore age 18” - as mostly cor­rect.

David Ajikobi is Nige­ria ed­i­tor at Africa Check, a non-par­ti­san factcheck­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion.

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