Background of the Study
The history of marriage dates back to the history of mankind. Biblically, God created the first man called Adam and he was without helper. God being omnipotent and omniscient know his problem and hired him into a great slumber and removed one of his ribs and created a woman called Eve (Genesis 2:21-22) from this time, marriage was first contracted by Adam and Eve who was the first parent on earth to highlight this, the holy bible says, so God created man in his own image in the image of God he created him, male and female and God blessed them and said to them “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth ad subdue it” Gen. 1:27-28.
Throughout the world, marriage is regarded as a moment of celebration and a milestone in adult life. Sadly, the practice of early marriage gives no such cause for celebration. All too often, the imposition of a marriage partner upon a child means that a girl or boy’s childhood is cut short and their fundamental rights are compromised (UNICEF, 2001). Young girls are robbed of their youth and required to take on roles for which they are not psychologically or physically prepared. Many have no choice about the timing of marriage or their partner. Some are coerced into marriage, while others are too young to make an informed decision. Premature marriage deprives them of the opportunity for personal development as well as their rights to full reproductive health and wellbeing, education, and participation in civic life.
The literature identifies many interrelated factors almost similar worldwide with small variations between societies that interact to place a girl child at risk of early marriage. Those factors include among others, search for economic survival, protection of young girls, peer group and family pressure, controlling female behavior and sexuality, wars and civil conflicts, maximization of fertility where infant mortality is very high (The working group 2000; UNICEF2001; Mathur et al. 2003) Early marriage contributes to a series of negative consequences both for young girls and the society in which they live. It is a violation of human rights in general and of girl’s rights in particular. For both girls and boys, early marriage has profound physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional impacts; cutting off educational and employment opportunities and chances of personal growth. In this project more emphasis is given to girls as this is an issue that impacts upon girls in far larger numbers and with more intensity. Besides having a negative impact on girls themselves, the practice of early marriage also has negative consequences on their children, families, and society as a whole. UNICEF (2000) argues that it is not only girls that pay for early marriage but also the society as a whole. Population pressure, health care costs and lost opportunities of human development are just a few of the growing burdens that society shoulders because of teenage pregnancies. Early marriage also undermines international efforts to fight against poverty in developing countries. Bunch (2005) makes it clear that the widespread practice of child marriage makes it increasingly difficult for families to escape poverty in the developing world, thereby undermining critical international efforts to fight poverty, HIV/AIDS and other development challenges, and making billions of dollars in development assistance less effective.
Drawn from an extensive reading of published materials; textbooks, journal articles and magazines, consultation of different web sites, listening of videos related to early marriage, this project will emphasize on the following : Firstly, it argues that “a number of factors such as poverty, social cultural and religious norms, civil conflict, value of virginity and fears about marital sexual activity are the major factors that contribute to early marriage of girls in Ibesikpo and Nigeria at large”. Secondly, it asserts that “early marriage is a violation of girl’s human rights as it deprives her from freedom, opportunity for personal development, and other rights including health and wellbeing, education, and participation in civic life.”Lastly, it argues that “early marriage is a developmental challenge for the growing burdens such as population pressure, health care costs and lost opportunities of human development that society shoulder.”
However, the foundation of any human society is the family and for any family to come to the existence there must be marriage institution in the world of Heroine Boetlner (1980:322) marriage is a Holy Sacred relationship between man and woman, designed to continue as long as they both live, beside, St. Paul argue that for this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and to be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh holy bible (R.S.V) Ephesians 5:30-31. As a matter of fact, things that normally accompany marriage ceremony among Nigerians and the Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State in particular are today clear manifestation of the high degree of self respect and sense of admiration for the marriage institution.
Especially, Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area, parents give out their daughters for marriage at very tender age or early age which form the centre point of this project. The issue of early marriage of girls which is often contributed by parents on behalf of their children when they are still two young to appreciate what marriage is all about, have generated a lot of problems to the people of Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area.
This explain why Duoglas C. Kannel (1980:223) says men and women who married before the age of 20 had the highest rate of divorce, they were over two times more likely to divorce than men and women who married between the age of 25 and 29. With this idea of marriage at the back of our mind, we can now define early marriage according to Henry J. I. (1953:313) early marriage is the uniting in formal marriage of children under 13 years of age with a much older men. Again, Cohel R.S. et al (1980:186) argue that the teenage mothers usually for go education, even those who return to school do not continue as far as their peers who did not become pregnant while teenagers.
The above statement show how bitter these anthers were particularly on girls who were being denied of their right to education regardless of their abilities. This equally deprives them what they would have made to national development if their potential were fully maximized. Traditionally, the people of Nkanu East have the notion that whoever refuses to marry at his or her youth has defined the culture and the custom of the area. This goes a long way to explain the custom where by if one marries without off spring or fail to married, the property of such victim is usually shared among his or her relations and will be buried outside the compound in a place called Ogbunkwu (evil forest) without befitting and ceremonial burial. This shows that early marriage is generally accepted in the area because, a situation where one marries and dies without producing children, the property of that person is usually shared among his or her relation.
Beside, the influence of Christianity is gaining much in that aspect. This is because the members of the congregation are always ready to bury any of their members with or without issue. These days the non Christian through association of age grade or peer group has a lot of influence on the old age tradition idea, hence such members can buy piece of land and bury such victim instead of allowing the traditionalists to bury such dead body in the evil forest.