By Oyindamola Adeniji
Rape, adolescent pregnancy, and the less-than-ideal notion of a girl marrying whoever makes her pregnant are all concerning issues but for this piece, let’s focus on the forced teen marriage. Some religions and cultures consider it a moral imperative to marry in a situation where pregnancies occur unplanned for, based on the reasoning that premarital sex or out-of-wedlock births are sinful. Therefore, victims are stigmatized. Giving birth outside marriage can, in some cultures, trigger extreme reactions from the family or community. It has been observed that pregnant girls who live with their guardians are sometimes pawned off like cheap jewelry in a pay-me-and-take-her-with-you deal specially called a “shotgun wedding” The phrase “shotgun wedding” is an American slang term that is also used in other parts of the world. It is based on an imaginary scenario in which the father of a pregnant (or sometimes only “deflowered”) woman resorts to coercion (such as threatening with a shotgun) to ensure that the male partner who caused the pregnancy follows through by marrying her. Let us read this short story from Tinu’s point of view:
My name is Tinu, and this is my situation. He was fortunate; I was not. That year, I had just graduated from secondary school, which was the only level I could reach because my parents didn’t have enough money to further sponsor me. He was someone I knew, my family knew him, and he knew my family as well, but I never liked him romantically. He was just someone I admired and aspired to be like because of the way he spoke and dressed, as well as the fact that he went to a university, a private one at that, and finished with a B.Sc. in computer engineering.
Now, do you remember that wonderful thought you had in your head as a little girl? The one where you would wear a beautiful white gown the length of a train with 16-20 coaches, have your dad hold your arm, walk you down the aisle to hand you over to your husband at the altar with a priest waiting to join you both together. Yes that one. Maybe you never imagined that but I did.
I hoped to be a pure bride, but I was raped; deflowered earlier than expected, when I was barely 16 years old. It was the most painful period of my life.
After that incident, my body started to change a few months later. It would reject food: nothing would stay down, my period stopped, my breasts became tender to touch, and I started to have strange cravings – I was pregnant. My mother had been aware of the changes for some time. How could she not? She did get pregnant and gave birth herself. I was married to the guy right away without having a say in the matter in order to save my parents’ faces at church and in the neighborhood where we lived. It wasn’t even a proper wedding; it was a pay-me-and-take-her-with-you arrangement. In this manner where Tinu, has become a victim of rape, teen pregnancy and forced marriage, her human rights has been violated.
The human rights to education, freedom from violence, work, reproductive rights, and voluntary marriages are all violated. In terms of the victims and society, girls may very well be trapped in a cycle of poverty and helplessness as a result of early and forced marriages. According to statistics from DHS 2013, between 2008 and 2014, in Nigeria 17% females got married at the age of 15 and 43% were married by the age of 18. Most will be subjected to mistreatment such as violence, abuse, and continuous forced sexual relations. This means that particularly young women are more likely to be dominated by their ‘husbands’. In addition, they have poor sexual and reproductive health. Young married girls are more likely to contract HIV, putting their health at risk. Most who are forced into these marriages lack education and are often illiterate. Others frequently drop out of school shortly before getting married.