ALMOST everyone in the neighbourhood admired Mariam Adamu (not
real names). Her fair-complexion, height and extremely beautiful figure
would pass for an international model anytime. Her seven-year-old
child seemed a photocopy of her too.
21-year-old Mariam had just moved in with her husband into the
neighboured, from a neighbouring city. Hence, neighbours knew
practically nothing about her outside her near-goddess beauty.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later when her husband took a second
wife with whom he later relocated, that the cynosure of all eyes
became the centre of real pity; Mariam had been living in
unimaginable emotional trauma but was sensible enough to cover-up.
She was living with Vesico Vagina Fistula, VVF, an abnormal fistulous
tract extending between the bladder(vesico) and the vagina that
allows the involuntary leakage of urine from the vagina. She
developed this at childbirth. Her disappointed husband obviously
couldn’t bear it anymore than abandon her for at least a healthier
woman! Poor Mariam died the following year from lack of care.
Victim of early marriage
What tragic end for another unfortunate victim of early marriage! No
fewer than 800,000 women in Nigeria, basically for reasons such as
Mariam’s, suffer from VVF annually in Nigeria, according to a 2015
report by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, UNFPA.
Also known as child marriage, early marriage, a common phenomenon
in some parts of Nigeria, refers to either a formal or informal union
entered into by an individual who is less than 18.
There’s been a whole lot of controversy surrounding child marriage in
Nigeria, with some endorsing it on the basis of religion even as the
1999 Constitution Section 49 4(b) remains confused about it after
stymied attempts at its deletion by the senate. Notwithstanding,
statistics and background checks on victims of child marriage identify
socio-economic factors as major drivers.
Whatever the reason is for giving out a minor in marriage, the sour
end of majority of these girls proves that the disadvantages certainly
override every possible benefit it might accrue- whether to victims,
their immediate families and the larger society.
“Generally speaking, teenagers make very poor mothers. Their
judgement is poor and their skills at caring for newborns are hardly as
good as that of adults. Biologically too, until the age of 18, a
woman’s pelvic bone is still developing and may not be easy for a
baby to pass through.
So, even though one who is less than 18 can carry a pregnancy to full
term as she has started menstruation, she may have obstructed labour
when it comes to child delivery because the pelvis is not yet big
enough for the baby to pass through. Therefore, a woman is not
biologically fit for marriage until 18,” a Lagos-based Gynaecologist,
Dr. Lemadoro Steven, told Woman’s Own.
Obstructed labour, Lemadoro explained, could result in VVF, lead to
neuronal injury resulting in obstetric palsy thus making it difficult for
her to walk or stand for life, with VVF also leaving her with a whole
gamut of problems such as urine leakage, irregular menstruation,
infertility, and much more.
Though VVF can be corrected surgically, it is not uncommon to have
such surgeries fail repeatedly, thereby leaving the woman emotionally
“So, my verdict is: marriage and pregnancy are a dangerous venture
for any woman less than 18,” Dr Lemadoro said.
There seems plenty of psychosocial no-no to it too.
As another medical practitioner, Dr. Abayomi Adesuyi, puts it,
psychologically, a girl under 18 is not ready for marriage. Hence, when
the inability to meet up with the accompanying demands of marriage
overwhelms her, the reaction of people around her begins to affect her
psyche, making her withdrawn as she feels a failure.
“Early marriage could make a teenage girl emotionally imbalanced.
This could lead to depression, especially if she isn’t enjoying such
marriage. Such people also factor in high mortality rate.
“On the other hand, girls who engage in early marriage appear
unkempt as they are not properly balanced. This could make them
appear much older than they actually are because they are not even
looking further than having their children and taking care of their
homes,” Dr. Abayomi told Woman’s Own.
Cervical cancer risk
Starting sex at a young age, science has also revealed, can factor
heavily in diseases such as cancer of the cervix; a cancer caused by
the abnormal growth of cells in the cervix, with the ability to spread to
other parts of the body.
Corroborating this, Dr. Abayomi said: “When a child is exposed to sex
at a very tender age, the tendency of having multiple sex partners is
there and the risk of having cervical cancer is high. In paediatric
medicine, engaging a minor in sex is labeled ‘child abuse’.
The disadvantages of early marriage also goes beyond health, says
Professor of Guidance and Counselling, Mrs Mopelola Omoegun, Dean,
Faculty of Education, University of Lagos.
“A woman needs to be mature physically, emotionally and
economically before going into marriage. Emotionally, she may find it
impossible to cope when there is a quarrel between her and the
husband; she starts crying and running back home.
“Her social circle will undergo set back because she becomes a misfit
among her age mates who aren’t married and among mature married
women who find her too young for their circle.
“Economically of course also, she will be at a disadvantage because
she probably has not completed her secondary school education, isn’t
working and will therefore depend on the husband for every single
“Above all, she will find it difficult raising her children properly
because she herself still needs training- and of course, she can’t give
what she doesn’t have. Hence, you are likely to find children of such
mums becoming problems to the society, unless there are family
members willing to help out. Generally, the effect of early marriage on
the society can be grave and enormous,” Prof Omoegun said.