Wednesday, 20 August 2008

You change your wife the way you change a car in Kano

Photo from Flickr/MikeBlyth. Creative Commons licence.

In northern Nigeria, according to the Population Council, 45% of girls are married by the age of 15, and 73% by the age of 18. Most marriages are arranged by the family to men who are on average 12 years older than their wives. Girls are brought up to believe it leads to freedom, independence, but the sacrifice is education and real independence.

Kano is an ancient city in northern Nigeria, the second largest in Nigeria. There is a high divorce rate here, where a new bride is considered a status symbol, adding to the vulnerability of the young wives. A girl can be divorced by the age of 18 and have children to support. "The way you change a car is the way you change a wife in Kano. You give birth to a few children and you can find yourself divorced for the slightest excuse," says Salamatu Da'u, a worker with a Nigerian AIDS service organisation, the Society for Family Health.

So they find themselves with limited education but having to earn in income. Inevitably this leads to menial jobs, but can also lead the way to sex work in a region where condom use is very low. Kano itself has an HIV/Aids rate that is below the national average, but among the brothel based sex workers in the city, this rises to 49.1%. These sex workers were also least likely to use condoms with their customers, and had limited understanding of how to prevent HIV transmission. Almost all the women working in the brothels had either been divorced or had run away to avoid being forced into marriage.

Northern Nigeria is very conservative, where discussion about sex is less open and literacy is low. The Society for Family Health workers are encouraging traditional leaders to promote the use of condoms. Some have, others lend silent support, but there is a long way to go, and so many different but inter-relating strands. to the problem.

Source IRIN: Underground sex in the conservative north
Child marriage
Education: the social vaccine


  1. Hopefully the SFH will have more success in the future.

  2. That is absolutely horrible!!!!! What a trap... they are told to marry to gain independance, but to do that they have to give up their education... so if the man leaves, they can't be independant. Grrrr...

  3. that is awful! 15 and married? How? That is possible then if it is legal to be married that age... This is a beautifl waking up call for everyone.

    Poverty starts from individual wrong decisions like marrying too young.

    May we exchange links by the way? My blog is new but I do update it everyday and I have selected links where I make sure to visit daily. Thanks.


  4. Solomon, I certainly hope so, but yet again it's going to be a long process.
    Jana, exactly, a trap. It's going to take so much education to counteract.
    Rogue, I think strictly speaking the legal age for marriage is 18 now, but that's civil law. There are two other legal systems - Islamic and customary. The civil law covers only civil marriages.

  5. Hi A. I love this information. I knew about the young age of girls getting married, I did not know about the high divorce rate. I also do not know what the answer would be. It will take a lot of education to change the behavior that has been in place for so long.

  6. Ah, yes such tragical behavior we have all around the world. *sigh*

    It's kinda surprising that we're so inhuman nowadays, one should think that things had evolved.... but sadly no.


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