Niger’s high rate of young girls getting married even before they are teenagers has been a result of poverty, a lack of resources, and a general mistreatment of women in the nation overall. As one of the world’s poorest nations, it also owns the dubious distinction of having the world’s highest birth rate.
BBC News launched an investigative report in to the developments in Niger, revealing the level of despair that leads to families selling their girls in to marriage for money and for practical reasons. In the desert north of the country, Tuareg girls were reportedly sold in to marriage to wealthy men in Nigeria for thousands. The more beautiful the men found the girls, the more they would pay. For some single Mothers, selling their children into marriage has simply become a means of survival.
As reported by the BBC:
About 24 percent of girls will be married by the time they are 15. That rises to nearly 80 percent by the age of 18. It is a social phenomenon that affects all significant ethnic groups in Niger, including the majority Hausa community.
The main reason is economic.
Hard-pressed families receive a “bride price” in return for their daughter’s hand in marriage. A girl married off is also one less mouth to feed.
And there is a deep-rooted fear of unmarried teenaged girls falling pregnant, or as one mother put it: “They can easily become delinquents.”
One young woman is now 21 and studying to become a nurse escaped from her controlling Nigerian husband who essentially kept her as a sex slave. There is also a rise in fistula, a medical condition that affects young girls who have babies before their bodies reach full maturity. An Islamic leader in the country said that by his religion’s law, a girl young as 9 can be married off.