African monarchs want marriage below age 18 criminalised
Rising from a four-day consultation and dialogue in Lagos on the unacceptable prevalence of female genital mutilation and child marriage in West and Central Africa, traditional and cultural leaders from the region have called on all customary courts to consider marriage below age of 18 years as a crime.
This declaration was made by the monarchs at the end of the dialogue organised by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
According to them, these practices are neither informed by religion nor tribe.
It was earlier reported that worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children while 17 percent of them or 125 million live in Africa.
Approximately, 39 percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before the age of 18 and child marriage is wide spread in West and Central Africa (42%) as well as Eastern and Southern Africa (36%).
Presenting the declaration on behalf of the monarchs at the end of the event, the Emir of Shonga in Kwara state, HRH Dr. Halliru Ndanusa Yahaya and the Secretary General, National Alliance of Traditional Authorities of Congo (DRC), His Majesty Mfumu Difima (ROI KONGO) respectively recommended that measures be initiated to black list the perpetrators, fight impunity in communities as well as ensure access to justice, enforcement of the tulle of law and punishment of perpetrators of the crime.
“In some countries that do not have laws that prohibit child marriage and female genital mutilation and where such laws exist, they are made subject to custom and tradition or they are not implemented.
"Therefore, any law on ending child marriage shall also address the legal consequences associated with such practice such as custody or guardian of the children.
"As change agents, we shall network amongst ourselves and other stakeholders like local councils and members of parliament among others. We shall support efforts that empower women and girls socially and economically.
"We shall hold ourselves individually and collectively to this declaration and shall meet periodically to review our own progress and efforts," the declaration reads in part.
The monarchs urged government to develop a road map and bench marks for ending child marriage and female genital mutilation at the continental, regional, national and community levels as well as ensure that palaces and other traditional institutions are accessible and safe spaces for women, children and survivors of the harmful practices.
Present at the event are traditional rulers from Malawi, Cameroon, Niger, South Africa, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo as well as emirs from Nigeria including emir of Shonga in Kwara state, HRH Dr. Haliru Ndanusa Yahaya; Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye E. Ogunwusi who was represented by Oba Muraina Adebanjo; Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty Egwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe and the Obong of Calabar, among others.