LIVE: Rwandans vote in presidential and parliamentary elections

LIVE: Rwandans vote in presidential and parliamentary elections

LIVE: Rwandans vote in presidential and parliamentary elections

LIVE: Rwandans vote in presidential and parliamentary elections

LIVE: Rwandans vote in presidential and parliamentary elections

LIVE: Rwandans vote in presidential and parliamentary elections

BREAKING

Outrage in Nigeria as mass wedding of underaged orphans sparks controversy

A girl carrying an extra pair of slippers, walks along the road in Maiduguri, Nigeria April 8, 2024. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
Source: REUTERS

In Nigeria's north-western state of Niger, about 100 orphans, some feared to be underage girls, are set to be married off in a planned mass wedding.

These children, who are set to be married off on May 24, have all lost their parents to attacks by armed bandits, and are at the centre of a growing controversy.

The mass wedding is supported by the Speaker of the Niger State Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji. He announced the event in an interview with journalists on May 7, as reported by the Guardian Nigeria.

Amid widespread outrage, Sarkin-Daji denied any coercion in the planned marriages. He explained that he was approached by religious and traditional leaders in his constituency to support less privileged parents whose children were due for marriage.

According to presidential aide Abiodun Essiet, the Imams Forum of Niger is determined to proceed with the mass wedding, insisting that the plan does not violate any part of Nigeria’s constitution.

"The Niger State Imam Forum has vowed to go ahead with the marriage plan on grounds that it did not contravene any sections of the Nigerian constitution and teachings of Islam," Essiet shared on social media.

"My team has visited the communities where the orphans live and discovered that some of the orphans are underage and have dropped out of school," she added.

Human rights activists in Nigeria have responded by launching a petition to stop the plan, which had garnered 10,500 signatures by May 17, according to the BBC.

Despite Nigeria's legal age of consent being 18, early marriage remains prevalent. International non-governmental organisation Girls Not Brides reports that 30.3% of girls and 1.6% of boys in Nigeria are married before their 18th birthday, and 12.3% of girls are married before the age of 15.

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