Friday, March 16, 2007

Niger's traditional chiefs condemn child marriage

By Abdoulaye Massalatchi

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger's influential traditional chiefs have urged the government to draw up legislation which would
stop girls being married off as young children, breaking ranks with Islamic groups in the mostly Muslim nation.

Family matters are decided according to strict Islamic laws in the impoverished West African country and girls, sometimes under the age of 10, are commonly married off by families seeking greater wealth and social status.

After marriage, girls are expected to have children quickly -- sometimes ending up with as many as 20 -- further boosting the influence of their family in the local community, but often causing medical problems.

Niger's population is growing more quickly than almost anywhere else in the world, with each woman in the former French colony having on average 7.1 children. An estimated seven women in every 1,000 die during childbirth.

In a break with religious custom, the traditional chiefs -- influential leaders chosen by powerful village families to deal with community disputes -- urged the government to outlaw underage marriage.

"Given the strong demographic growth which has been aggravating economic, environmental and social problems for decades ... we recommend the government adopt legislation to block underage marriage," the chiefs said in a declaration broadcast on state television late on Wednesday.

They also called on the government to help them educate rural populations about reproductive health. Muslim leaders have in the past fought against such campaigns, including those encouraging people to use condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Entire article here.

No comments:

Post a Comment