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Backlash Over Nigerian Orphan Mass Wedding Amid Underage Bride Fears

Nigerian

Plan by a state legislator in Nigeria to support the marriage of 100 brides who were left orphaned by violence has caused controversy regarding cultural and religious norms. In the northwest Niger state, some of these orphans—who are thought to be underage girls—are scheduled to be married off on May 24th, according to the BBC.

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The speaker of the national assembly in the predominantly Muslim state of Niger in the northwest, Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, is sponsoring the wedding. Critics worry that some of the girls might be underage or that they are being coerced into complying in order to benefit financially.

The federal minister of women’s affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, criticised the ceremony and called for an inquiry into the brides’ ages and whether or not they gave their consent to the 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.

Speaker Sarkindaji has declared that he will not be attending the ceremony in response to the outcry from the public. The Niger Imams Forum, however, insisted that the girls are not younger than eighteen and that the marriage ceremony should proceed.

The majority of child marriages occur in impoverished, rural households in the northern region of the nation. It is viewed as a means of lessening the financial strain on their families or strengthening social and political ties.

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