Africa: End the violation of girls’ rights

(Nairobi, June 16, 2022) – African governments should not condone or legally allow child marriage, denial of education or other violations of girls’ rights, Human Rights Watch said today. Under the auspices of the African Union. In 2022, this day is dedicated to the theme “Elimination of Harmful Habits That Affect Children.” African governments must take strong action to protect girls from practices that violate their rights.

Such harmful practices are often rooted in discriminatory traditional, economic, religious and legal conditions, as well as in some superstitious social attitudes about the role of girls and women. One such practice is child marriage, which is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. 18 of the 20 countries with the highest child marriage rates in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these countries have very high teenage pregnancies, as well as a high percentage of girls out of school at the secondary school level.

Many girls drop out of school because they are forced to marry and have children at a crucial time for their education and future Rita Enketia, a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. ” Child marriage prevents girls from choosing their own lives, disrupting or shutting down their education, exposing them to violence and discrimination, and depriving them of their full participation in economic, political and social life.. A

Child marriages and teenage pregnancies are reported to have increased in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa during the Covid-19 epidemic. UNICEF and non-government estimates UNICEF and non-government estimates indicate a steady increase due to girls dropping out of school, declining family income and additional financial hardship.

The inaction of several African governments on child marriage has been a major obstacle to efforts to protect girls’ rights, including the right to education. Many African governments have agreed to tackle and end harmful practices against girls and women, but implementation has been slow, Human Rights Watch said.

In Nigeria, where the rate of child marriage is very high, Human Rights Watch has found that the state and federal governments have failed to properly enforce the law prohibiting marriage before the age of 18. In Nigeria’s Kano state, an 11-year-old girl dropped out of junior high school after her mother died and her family married her to take care of her.

Now 14, she told Human Rights Watch that she felt helpless on her wedding day: I don’t really remember [de mon mariage] Because it was not my decision. It was the decision of my family members. I don’t really like him. They married me without my consent. There was a wedding ceremony [traditionnelle]But I did not participate.A

More than 30 African governments have taken action, many in recent years, to protect teenage girls’ right to attend school during pregnancy and motherhood. Despite significant progress, school authorities in many countries, including Kenya and Malawi, still prevent these students from attending public schools. Some governments have not yet taken clear legal protections or additional financial or protective measures to provide these girls, especially married students with the support they need to stay in school.

Tanzania, which in November 2021 lifted the discriminatory ban on school attendance against pregnant students or young mothers, did not remove the rules that allow schools to expel students who have “entered into marriage”. The government has also failed to outlaw child marriage, despite the High Court amending the Marriage Act in 2016 to set the legal age of marriage for children, girls and boys at 18.

According to Human Rights Watch, the African Union should extend its call to African human rights organizations and call on all its member states to ban child marriage. It should encourage countries to adopt pro-school laws and policies that encourage girls to stay in school and return after having children so that they can excel academically.

While many African governments have made significant progress in reducing gender inequality in access to secondary education, many girls are facing other barriers and restrictions that deny them the right to education. Education. Research by Human Rights Watch in Nigeria, Tanzania and Malawi, among other countries, found that tuition fees and indirect costs in secondary schools were the biggest barriers, especially for young people. Girls from low-income families and those who live in poverty

Many girls are at risk of child marriage when the education they receive is of low quality, when their parents feel the risk of sexual violence on the way to and from school and once they leave school. In many communities, these factors accelerate the parents’ choice to marry while their daughter is still alive.

All African governments should immediately amend their laws and policies so that marriage laws require gender equality and prohibit discrimination. “, Concludes Rita Enketia. ” They should work tirelessly to remove all financial and political barriers to ensure that all girls receive free secondary education.. A

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