Abuja - The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has reiterated the need to end early and forced marriage, saying that it constitutes a serious human rights abuse.
The Executive Secretary of the commission, Professor Bem Angwe, made the call on Tuesday in Abuja at an event organised by the commission to mark the Day of the African Child.
Angwe, who was represented by his Special Assistant, Harry Obe, said that early and forced marriage could represent a threat to both the child and the society.
"Statistics show that 15 out of 20 countries with the highest rate of early child marriage are in Africa. Early and forced marriage is any marriage before the age of 18.
"It is a marriage where one of the parties does not have the power to prevent or end.
"Early and forced marriage is a serious human rights abuse, which threatens not just children, but the society at large.
"This menace undermines the rights and development of children as it impacts on their emotional, physical, psychological, health, education, economic well-being and dignity.
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"Critical human rights violated by this practice include the rights to education, the right to health, the right to family, equality and non-discrimination, employment, freedom of movement, freedom from violence and access to reproductive and sexual health care.
"Child marriage contravenes critical human rights international and regional instruments like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Child’s Rights Convention, the African Charter on the rights and the Welfare of the Child, etc."
The executive secretary expressed optimism that Nigeria could achieve the eradication or mitigation of child marriage through the various legal platforms and frameworks available to it.
Speaking in an interview, Mary-Joy Soughul, a student of Regina Pacis College in Abuja, advised parents against forcing their children into early marriage for any reason.
"What I will advise parents is that they should not force their children into marriage because they are not helping them in any way instead they are bringing more harm and danger to their family in the sense that if you send your child into early marriage it can cause under development because let’s say the child wanted to be a doctor but because of what you have done, now she cannot become a doctor anymore.
"Or you son wanted to become let’s say a politician - and who knows he might be the president - but because of what you have done, your child will be stock with family issues - always thinking about the family.
"It can lead to so many harmful things and if parents do this, it can even lead to the death of the child and this can bring depression and sadness to the parents."
Since 1976, the Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 of every year in remembrance of the school children that were shot dead in Soweto, South Africa during the apartheid regime.
The theme for this year’s celebration is: 'Accelerating our collective efforts to end child marriage in Africa'.
This year’s celebration also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child.