What You Should Know About Child Marriage
You must have heard about these antics in certain parts of the world. I have lived in one of those parts. I spent the later part of 2015 and earlier part of 2016 in a small town in Northern Nigeria. Many of the things I discovered are hard to discuss on a global platform.
Child marriage is labeled as a cruel thing. It is something that humanitarian organizations are fighting against. However, my problem with all their efforts is that they seem not to understand the problem.
Child marriage is not a new thing. It is not a modern fantasy. It has been going on for years. And it still continues today (with all the campaigns and outrage that has been waged against it).
Here is what you probably don’t know: in most cases, the “child” is NOT opposed to child marriage. When humanitarian organizations present their solution, it always involves formal education. And from my experience in that small town, the girls don’t even want formal education. 99% of them think this way.
There was a local girl who said that the hard work of learning is not for girls. That is what she believes and what many of them agree with. They go to school in this particular town, but you can tell they are being forced to.
Several of the young girls have grown men they are engaged to. That is if they are not married already. And the girls love it! Just think about this; one of the girls got scolded by a teacher. The next day the girl brought a man old enough to father the teacher as her husband to protest what happened.
There was a clip that went viral among my colleagues during this time. It was of a little girl. She couldn’t have been more than 6 years old. She was lamenting that she had to go to school and study all these “hard” subjects. She concluded that she just wants to get married.
Married for them is no worries, no responsibilities, someone takes care of you. And they, in turn, take care of the men with food and sex. It seems a better bargain for them than learning maths, science or literature.
The boys are not exempted. Many marry at ridiculously young ages. Of course, these are the boys that have farms, or animals they rear. School is secondary. This is their life. This is all they hope to be. The thought of a bigger dream is so alien from them.
To make matters worse, the elders in such communities are pleased to have things stay that way. In some cases, there is always that one or two community leader that wants things to be different. But they are always outnumbered.
To be fair, there has been a number of girls who grew up from such a background who dared to dream bigger and ran away from their communities to make a better life for themselves. But even they know that any attempt to visit their community after their flight means they will be given in marriage immediately. And if they come back married, they will smell the wrath of the community.
These people believe in the continuity of their practice. They see it as a noble tradition of their tribe. Polygamy is commonplace. Children are engaged to men the age of their parents.
But what I want you to take as the strongest point here is that the girl child, whom you are trying so much to protect, LOVE the idea. I wouldn’t have believed this if I didn’t have my experience.
One of my colleagues (who was from a nearby city) in the small town said he has a girl he was engaged to while in the university. But as soon as the girl finished secondary school (similar to high school), she insisted she wanted to get married. My colleague explained to her that he wasn’t ready and that she was too young. She went ahead to marry another man a few months later.
This is the reality. Doubt it if you want. But it is what I have seen. Of course, there are things I consider too vile to be shared. But believe me, this is the reality. If you want to change the world, please understand the problem first.
I rest my case