09.02.2008 General News

Police Rescue 12-year-old Bride

By Daily Guide
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A bridegroom has had his joy of marriage wither soon after his teenaged wife was brought to Ghana from Kebbi State, Nigeria, because she was declared too young to be his better-half according to local laws.

For the Nima resident (name withheld), a whistleblower and the Police are responsible for his predicament because, but for them, his nuptial union with the teenaged girl could have continued.

A whistleblower, resident in the Nima house where the bride and bridegroom lived, upon seeing the girl when she was brought in by relations, reported the matter to the Police, giving the bride's age as 12.

When the girl was brought to the Nima Police, she however gave her age as 15 but stated that she was not interested in the man, whom she had not known until the marriage.

Parties to the marriage who arranged it in the Northern Nigerian State of Kebbi told the Police that, in their part of the world, that age was acceptable for marriage but the Nima Divisional Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Awuni Angwubutoge would not have it.

According to him, the marriage infringed upon Ghanaian law since the girl is below 18. His decision to have the matter transferred to the Domestic Violence and Child Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service was shelved upon the intervention of a Fulani elder in Nima.

The elder, who has been identified as the Chief of the Fulani in Nima, assured the Police that he would handle the matter.

DAILY GUIDE was told behind the scenes that the marriage had been dissolved and that the girl would be returned to Kebbi State, Nigeria very soon because of the turn it had taken.

When DAILY GUIDE spoke to the Nima Divisional Police Chief on the subject, he said he was awaiting the concerned parties at his office as at yesterday.

He said he wanted to find out whether the marriage had indeed been dissolved and the girl returned.

In the predominantly Islamic Northern states of Nigeria it is acceptable to marry out girls as young as 12. Such young girls are entrusted to the care of the head wife (Uwargida) until they are mature enough to withstand the demands of marriage.

This arrangement has though been questioned by a section of Muslim scholars who find it repugnant to the values of the religion, especially since it does not exist in the Arab world where the Sharia or Islamic law is supreme.

A number of female NGOs have sprung up crusading against early marriages in this part of West Africa because of the health problems associated with it.

One of the health problems emanating from marrying very young girls is Vesico-Vaginal Fistulae (VVF), the incidence of which is high in the Northern states of Nigeria.

VVF is characterized by the inability of the victim to retain urine and according to Dr.Mohammed Mahey of the Nima Government Hospital, “it can lead to obstructed labour. Fistulae or an opening occurs between two organs, the bladder and the vagina. The victim is unable to retain urine and so the fluid passes involuntarily from the bladder to the vagina. VVF patients wear offensive odour.”

Special hospitals have been opened in some parts of Northern Nigeria to manage the high incidence of VVF.

By A.R. Gomda

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