Traditional leaders move to end child marriage, recognise 18 as official age


Traditional rulers from Western and Central Africa on Friday pledged to recognise 18 as the age of marriage and act as champions to end child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, on the continent.

The traditional rulers made the pledge at the closing of a four-day conference organised by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) in Lagos.

NAN reports that the conference had the theme, “Ending Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation in Africa: Dialogue with Traditional and Cultural Leaders”.

While reading from a document entitled “Declaration of the Kings”,  Dr Haliru Yahaya, the Emir of Shonga, Kwara, Ilorin, said it was an indictment on African values to have the highest prevalence of child marriage and FGM globally.

“We have decided to break our silence, condemn in totality, stand against any form of violence and adopt a zero tolerance to child marriage and female genital mutilation.

“These acts are modern forms of slavery, brutal crimes and inhuman indignity on our children.

“We will recognise 18 as the age of marriage. All our customary courts should consider child marriage as a crime and enforce such decision.

“We are also recommending measures to blacklist the perpetrators, fight impunity in our communities and ensure access to justice, rule of law and punishment of perpetrators,” he said.

Also, Queen Mother Best Olimi of Toro Kingdom in Uganda, urged other kings to ensure that child marriage and female genital mutilation become history in the African continent.

“This is a strong commitment that we have made and we will stand by it,” she said.

His Majesty Mfumu Difima of Democratic Republic of Congo, urged traditional leaders to make their palaces accessible and safe space for women, children and survivors of child marriage and female genital mutilation.

“We promise to be protectors of our children against any form of violence and strongly support the empowerment of women,” he said.

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adewusi Adeyeye, who was represented by Oba Muraina Adedini of Ile-Isoya in Ife Kingdom, said that they would develop a road map to prioritise compulsory free, quality primary and secondary education.

Contributing, Dr Izeduwa Derex-Briggs, UN Women Regional Director, said the UN would continue to provide all the technical support needed to end child marriage and female genital mutilation in Africa.