WINET succeeds in attracting ban for forced, child marriage in Ebenebe


The traditional ruler of Ebenebe, Awka North local government area, Igwe Christopher Emeka Nnaegbuna, has abolished an age long custom of forced and child marriage in the community following advocacies by Women Information Network (WINET), a Non Governmental Organization based in Enugu since 2016.


Igwe Nnaegbuna made the proclamation abolishing the practice recently during the community’s cultural fiesta (Ebenebe Day) in line with extant laws of the state prohibiting the practice.

Speaking on the occasion, Igwe Nnaegbuna said “Ebenebe like every community has customs, rules and regulations which are not above the laws governing Anambra state and constitutions of Nigeria. Therefore, we cannot observe any practice that is against extant laws of the country. We have seen that under aged marriage impact negatively on people and society individually and collectively. It leads to diseases, stillbirths and deaths.”

The monarch, while also proscribing cultism and other forms of atrocities in the community, charged parents and guidance to train their children and wards in the ways of God to avoid teenage and unmarried pregnancies as the community would not hesitate in punishing offenders accordingly.

On his part, the Traditional Prime Minister (Onowu) of Ebenebe, Chief Joe Nwegwu, said the Igwe’s proclamation was apt and a unanimous decision reached by all stakeholders in the community such as Igwe-in-Council, cabinet chiefs, Ebenebe Town Union (ETU) executives, youths, women leaders and others, and must be abided by all.

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In separate interviews, the President General, Ebenebe Town Union (ETU), Hon. Paul Nnatuanya, a member of Igwe-in-Council, Chief Ezekiel Okafor and the President General of ETU Women Wing, Mrs Favour Nworah, assured their readiness to take the message to all the nooks and crannies of Ebenebe with a view to ensuring full compliance by both indigents and residents of the community.

Expressing happiness over the development, the Executive Director of WINET, Mrs Miriam Menkiti urged Ebenebe community to queue behind the proclamation, advising that a task force should be set by the community to enforce compliance where the need arises.

Investigations revealed that the act was to checkmate early and unwanted pregnancy by randy men as they marry whoever they impregnate, though it appears it was aiding and abetting it.

Marriages contracted under such arrangements never lasted as anticipated as it breeds abortion, out of school syndrome, divorce, stillbirths, maternal mortality, diseases, domestic violence, poverty, deaths, among others.
The practice it was gathered was also against the Anambra State Child Rights Law (2004) which came into full force in 2006 and was gazetted on May 4, 2017.

The law which prohibits all traditional and cultural practices that violate the rights of the child and criminalises them, also incorporates the basic principles of the Child’s Rights Act (CRA), United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Charter 1990), the Labour Act Cap 198 of LFN 1990 and Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

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Section 23 to 24 of it provided that “No person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage, and accordingly, a marriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect. No parent, guardian or any person shall betroth a child to any person. A betrothal in contravention of subsection (1) of this section is null and void.”

In section 25 of same law, a person who marries a child, to whom a child is betrothed, who promotes the marriage of a child or who betroths a child commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of five years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

The NGO, Women Information Network (WINET), Enugu had conducted a baseline study to ascertain the veracity of the claims and confirmed the practice.

The Executive Director of WINET, Mrs Miriam Menkiti, said the study which employed Focused Group Discussion (FGD) and In-depth interview, and was subsequently published in 2017, established that truly, child and forced marriages were culturally accepted by all the eight villages of the community.

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Menkiti explained that “Child marriage is a marriage contracted between a man and a young girl aged between 12 and 17 years. The community also has a cultural belief which emphasises that no unmarried girl should have a baby while living with her parents. So, girls who get pregnant are forced into marriage. The study identified culture, poverty and greed as some of the causes of child and forced marriages.”

WINET, sponsored by a Spanish NGO, Mundo Cooperante, launched a campaign entitled “the Right to be a Girl”, solely to sensitise the community on the need to abolish the practice, as at it was at variance with the provisions of Anambra State Child Rights Law, and Child’s Rights Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“WINET in 2019 carried out sensitisation dialogues with different segments of the community including the youths, the girls, the men and the women, where they all released their commitment towards ending teenage marriages,” WINET Executive Director disclosed.

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