End Forced Child Marriages in Niger

Target: Maikibi Kadiatou Dandobi, Niger’s Minister of Population, Women’s Promotion and the Protection of Children

Goal: End forced marriages, including child marriages, by enforcing stricter laws banning these practices at local, regional, and national levels.

The Western African country of Niger has one of the highest incidences, if not the highest incidence, of forced marriages in the world. This includes child marriages, defined as a marriage in which a spouse is below is the age of 18, and in which case — in Niger, as well as most countries which experience child marriage — the under-aged individual is most often a woman.

The causes of such a high rate of forced marriages in Niger are manifold: In one sense, religious and cultural norms contribute to the phenomenon; in another, it is caused, to a great degree, by a lack of education; finally, economic hardship and shortages of food have forced a number of Nigerien families to sell their children as brides.

Women and girls are granted an alarming lack of rights in Niger. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has noted in its country profile for Niger that, “Under customary law, men are considered the heads of families and their wives are expected to obey them. Even after divorce or the death of their spouse, women cannot claim the status of head of the household.”

The profile report also mentions that the Nigerien legal code, “sets the minimum legal age of marriage at 15 years for women and 18 for men,” and that, “data from 2013 reveals that 75% of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married or in union before they were 18 years old, ranking Niger first country in the world, within the 20th highest-prevalence countries.”

In 2012, The Telegraph reported that children as young as seven were being sold as brides in Niger, in order for families to afford food during what has become a string of regular shortages, with a particularly dire famine occurring in 2005-06.

Please urge the government of Niger to take concrete steps to end this injustice toward women and children within its borders.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Minister Dandobi,

Your country experiences some of the highest, if not the absolute highest, rates of forced and child marriages among the nations of the world. There is no reason that women and girls, who make up the vast majority of under-aged spouses, should be coerced or forced into marriage, regardless of age; regarding age, it is clear that individuals younger than 18 do not have the emotional or mental aptitude necessary to enter into the commitment of marriage. It is also clear, based on the laws and customs of your country, that women are effectively treated as second-class citizens of Niger: They are, as the Nigerien legal code makes clear, expected to obey their husbands.

It is apparent, and should especially be apparent to everyone in the 21st century, that women are individuals with individual lives and aptitudes. It is their birthright to determine the course of their own lives and livelihoods, regardless of men.

It is also apparent that Niger has a serious problem in regards to child marriage, stemming in many ways not only from religious and cultural customs, but also economic insecurity and consistent food shortages; this invariably leads to sexual slavery and human trafficking.

Please urge your government and its members, on levels both national and regional, to reverse this awful trend, for the sake of the women of Niger and woman around the world.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Rebecca Gustafson

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  1. This is appalling. There must be a way to stop the cycle of poverty, ignorance, religious control, misogyny and other factors which contribute to forced marriage and child abuse in Niger and other affected countries.

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