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Katsina’s child law sets adult age at 18, but says those younger can marry

Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State [PHOTO CREDIT: @GovernorMasari]

By Abubakar Ahmadu Maishanu December 5, 2020 

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The Katsina State House of Assembly has passed a bill to protect children from abuse, but says the legislation will not regulate the age of marriage.

The decision means although the Child Right Protection Bill defines a child as a person below the age of 18, people who should by that definition be considered underage can still marry.

Tthe sponsors of the bill say it is meant to guarantee children’s right to education and check underage marriage, cruelty and sexual assault against children.

The House Committee chairman on the Child Protection Bill, Musa Nuhu, while presenting the recommendations of the committee before his colleagues on Wednesday, urged the immediate passage of the bill to end the prevalence of child rape, child labour and forced and underage marriage in the state.

According to a United Nations survey, 43 per cent of Nigerian girls are married before they are 18. The problem of early marriage is particularly endemic in the North East and North West regions.

With more than 80 per cent of its girls married off before their 18th birthday, Katsina State has one of the highest prevalence of child marriage and street children (Almajiri) in the country.

The Act covers key aspects of the lives of children and adolescents. It is divided into survival rights, development rights, participation rights, and protection rights.

The first article of the bill, which awaits the assent of the governor to become law, gives the Sharia law supremacy over the child protection law. It says the Sharia will take precedence if any matter in the new law concerning a Muslim child goes against the religious law. Islam is the predominant religion in Katsina.

On marriage, it argues that a child’s maturity goes beyond the idea of puberty. The bill, however, says there should be counselling by parents to evaluate the development of their children before marrying them off.

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