Mass wedding for Nigeria orphans sparks outcry

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In Nigeria, there’s a big uproar about a planned mass wedding involving around 100 orphans. Many people are upset about this event, which is scheduled to take place on May 24th in Niger State, located in the northwest part of the country. What’s troubling is that some of these orphans might be underage girls.

These children have lost their parents in attacks by armed bandits, who often target civilians in the state. The Minister of Women’s Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, has taken action to stop the wedding by filing a court order.

It’s reported that the Speaker of the Niger State Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, supported the mass wedding after being approached by local religious leaders for financial assistance. The Imams Forum of Niger insists that the marriage should proceed, claiming that the girls are all at least 18 years old, which is the legal age for marriage in Nigeria.

However, there are concerns among critics that some of the girls might be younger than 18 or are being pressured into marrying for financial reasons. Minister Kennedy-Ohanenye is determined to protect the rights of these girls. Her department is investigating who these 100 girls are, their ages, and whether they have agreed to the marriage.

The Ministry of Women Affairs plans to provide education and training to these girls. If the Speaker of Niger State tries to obstruct these efforts, there could be a legal battle between him and the ministry.

A senior presidential aide, Abiodun Essiet, echoed Minister Kennedy-Ohanenye’s stance. He urged all stakeholders to avoid policies and programs that exploit vulnerable people, perpetuate poverty, and worsen ignorance.

Human rights activists in Nigeria have started a petition to halt the mass wedding plan, gathering over 10,500 signatures by Friday evening. This shows that many people are against child marriages and want to protect the rights of young girls.

According to Girls Not Brides, an international campaign group, a significant number of girls (30%) and a smaller percentage of boys (1.6%) in Nigeria are married before they reach 18 years old. Shockingly, some girls (12%) are married off even before they turn 15.

Child marriages are most common in the northern part of Nigeria, particularly among poor families living in rural areas. This practice is often seen as a way to ease financial burdens on families or to forge political and social alliances. In Northern Nigeria, where Islam is predominant, cultural and religious traditions, such as polygamy, often support child marriage.

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