Nearly 117,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the Nigerian Government to raise the age of marriage to eighteen years nationwide.
The petition “It’s Never Your Fault: Raise the age of consent in Nigeria from 11 to 18,” started by three girls, calls for a ban on child marriage and enforcement of legislation.
Susan Ubogu, Kudirat Abiola and Temitayo Asuni set up the #raisetheage campaign in the wake of reports last year about a man in his 70s who married a 15-year-old girl in Niger.
“When there is a large age gap between a bride and groom – as in the case that inspired the #raisetheage petition – it is highly likely that there is a huge power imbalance in the marriage,” said Hussaini Abdu, Plan International’s country director in Nigeria.
“Many girls in Nigeria are already treated as inferior to boys and men, but when they are trapped in a marriage they never wanted, it is even more difficult for them to get their voices heard. Their hopes and dreams are limited as soon as they start their new lives, they are often cut off from family and friends, unable to complete their education and fulfill their potential and are highly likely to face domestic and sexual violence.”
An estimated 43 in 100 girls are married off before they turn 18. Among them, 17 in 100 are married off before they turn 15.
The petition hopes to gather some 150,00 signatures.