What is the ideal age for a lady to get married? (2)

One reason why this practice prospered then was because many of girls were complete homebodies who were neither sociable nor got involved in any form of job or schooling. 

With the advent of modernization however, which has also embraced education, Muslims now believe in raising and educating their wards, whether male or female.

Today, a Muslim girl may not marry until she is in her late teens. Even then, there is a standing caveat. Islam allows that the father gives her out in marriage, even without her consent. This is because at this stage of her life, it is believed that she is not matured enough to know the right man from the right family and with a good background. Hence it is the duty of a father to arrange a partner for her daughter.

Another school of thought, based on the views of some experts on Islamic law holds that, “although the Koran teaches that a girl can be married as soon as she can conceive, the religion does not condone forcing girls into wedlock.” According to them, “West African Muslims have accepted this tradition because it ostensibly promotes social stability, cementing ties between clans, giving monetary boost/financial security and preventing promiscuity.”

A likely question at this juncture is, “Is the practice of early marriage based solely on Islamic/religious grounds?” Research findings reveal that this practice also cuts across ethnic boundaries.

Speaking for the Igbos and by extension some other ethnic groups in Nigeria, Mr Godwin Chukwuka recalled that, “Prior to this time, parents gave out their daughters between the ages of twelve and fifteen. With improved civilization however, which now makes education mandatory, a girl should at least finish her secondary education, hence may not wed until she is eighteen and above.

Those in the villages still uphold the practice and marry within their local setting. Of course, this is not applicable to those who pursue university education and may not graduate until in their late twenties.”

Activists and medical professionals uphold that, “pre-adolescent marriage is partly responsible for Africa’s maternal mortality rates, which, according to statistics, is among the highest in the world. This, according to Miss. Vivian Moteh is because “The girls are pulled from school and forced to drop their education to become wives overnight; with no one to turn to for help or rescue.

The activists believe this practice has come under increasing assault. It would be recalled that some twenty years ago a 12 year-old girl named Fanta Keita, an Ivorien was reported to have killed her 30 year-old husband. Fanta was a child-wife with a heart-shaped face, a simple, sweet smile, bright, almond shaped eyes and a tiny voice, so much so that none could have imagined her slitting someone’s throat. But that was what she did in April 1996.

A report says: “She killed her husband of three weeks, was arrested the next day and, largely because of an Ivorien association for the Defence of Women, the matter almost immediately became a cause.

Fanta’s parents had forced her to marry a distant cousin she had never heard of or seen. They lived together in Abidjan. Every night, she said, he asked her for sex. Every night she said no. He would then batter her on the face and head. Then, every night, he would rape her. One Saturday night, he came into their house and asked her to draw water for a bath. She said "No." He asked why. She said she just did not want to. He left.

He had told her that if she refused to draw water, she should not go to a neighbour’s house. She went anyway, watched television and ate dinner and when she returned, he was waiting for her. After he beat her and raped her again, he went to sleep. She slipped into the kitchen, took a knife and cut him.

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