AN IMPERICAL REVIEW OF THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN AND THE LEGAL PROTECTION AGAINST EARLY MARRIAGE IN CAMEROON
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Despite international agreements and national laws, marriage of girls below 18 years of age is common worldwide and affects millions. Child marriage, defined as marriage of a child below 18 years of age is an ancient worldwide custom and other terms applied to child marriage inclusively “early marriage” and “child brides.”
Child marriage is a human rights violation that prevents girls from obtaining an education, enjoying optimal health, bonding with others their own age, maturing, and ultimately choosing their own life partners.
Child marriage is driven by customs, poverty, religious beliefs, security of the child to mentions just a few.
This thesis therefore seeks to depict the drivers of child marriages in the North, Far-north and South-west pointing out also the effects on girls’ health: increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, death during childbirth, and obstetric fistulas, school dropout, domestic violence, child sexual abuse and poverty.
Critical issues are the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among young people; childbearing by young girls, which can lead to obstetric fistulas and death of the mother; and child marriage Girls’ offspring are at increased risk for premature birth and death as neonates, infants, or children.
To stop child marriage, this study points out possible strategies or policies and programs to foster empowerment for women that must be implemented like educating communities, raising awareness through NGOs and relevant line government ministries, engage local and religious leaders, involve parents, in the empowerment of girls through education and employment programs.
Also the awareness of reproductive health issues in most affected areas in the Country is of paramount importance to combat the problem of child marriage.
Early marriage is also known as child marriage which refers to a marriage before the ages of 18 years. It is common in rural communities. Although marriage in an early age for young women had been in practice long before the British era, such a practice became more common amongst the Muslims and Hindu communities in the world.
Early or Child marriage is a long-term cultural and traditional practice in these communities and is as a result of patriarchal social structure, conservative social values and extreme poverty which have fostered this practice. That is young women/girls, are widely misconceived as financial burdens of their families, receive less health care and education since their birth and also, noticing the factor of dowry payment as an incentive for marrying off their daughters and this is known to incure sanctions as it is known to be a violation of these young women’s rights as presented by the report of UNICEF Innocenti research.
International Conventions like the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) defines marriage as a formalized, binding relationship between consenting adults that is individuals aged 18 and above of full maturity and capacity to act, with legal or social standing to which sexual relations are legitimized as an arena of reproduction and child rearing which has state recognition.
CEDAW in its article 18 shall ensure the elimination of all sort of discrimination against women and also ensure the protection of the right of the women and the child as stipulated in international declaration and conventions.
(Article 18) fights against violations and recommend the minimum age for marriages which is 18 for men and 16 for women. But the focus is women marrying under the ages of 16 which are contracted as early female marriage and the outcome of this is that, these young women who give birth before the ages of 16 remain poorer which not the case is for aged women.
In Cameroon as presented by the report of the United Nation Human Rights Committee 2009, rightly points out that marriage should be a legal union between two consent adults irrespective of whether it is traditional, civil or religious.
Although later amendments have been made as early marriage is concerned provided by the Convention on the Rights of a Child 1989 in its Article 1 provides civil status law for both boy and girls 18 years and under to get married, but these provisions in section 52(4) of the Cameroonian code laws were ratify on early marriage which has been viewed as a violations based on certain circumstances.
As stipulated in Section 356 of the Cameroon penal code; whoever compels anyone to marry under mitigating circumstance such as without either of the party consent and under the age of 18years shall be punished with imprisonment from 5-10 years and fine payment of 25000-100000 frs and the guardianship or parental power can be averted.
However in accordance to section 31 (4) of the Cameroon penal code marriage must be celebrated under consent of the parties involved and section 65 of the code provides marriage would not be accepted under force consent or duress.
The Civil Status Registration Ordinance No. 81 – 02 of 29 June 1981, in its general provisions declared
Section (1): This ordinance shall govern the legal registration of births, marriages and deaths in the United Republic of Cameroon.
Section (2): It shall lay down the conditions of validity of civil status certificates and certain provisions relating to the status of natural persons.
Birth, marriage and death certificates shall be intangible and final documents, and may be rectified after signature only under conditions laid down by the law.
Section (3): Apart from the entries provided for in this Ordinance, entries to be made on civil status certificates shall be laid down by decree.
Section 4 (1) Every Cameroonian residing in Cameroon shall, under pain of the penalties provided for in Section 370 of the Penal Code, be bound to declare to the competent civil status registrar of his area births, deaths and marriages concerning him and taking place or celebrated in Cameroon.
Section (48): A marriage shall be celebrated by a civil status registrar of the place of birth or residence of one of the spouse to be.
Section (49): The marriage certificate shall specify the following:
-the name of the civil status centre;
-the full name, date and place of birth, residence and occupation of the spouses;
-the consent of each of the spouses;
-the consent of the parent in case of minor children;
-the full names of the witnesses;
-the date and place of celebration of the marriage;
-where applicable, the mention of the existence of a marriage contract: co-ownership or separation of
-the mention of the type of marriage chosen: polygamy or monogamy;
– the full name of the civil status registrar
-the signatures of the spouses, witnesses and the civil status registrar.
Section 50: (1) Mention of the marriage shall be made in the margin of the birth certificate of each of the spouses in compliance with Article 19 above and on the initiative of the competent civil status registrar.
(2) Failure to forward copy or notice of such registration shall be punishable by a fine of 500 francs pronounced by the competent state counsel.
Section 51: In case of divorce, mention of it shall be made on the birth and marriage certificates of the spouses on the initiative of the Legal Department.
Section (52): No marriage may be celebrated:
(1) If the girl is a minor of 15 years old or the boy of 18 years old, unless for serious reasons a waiver has been granted by the President of the Republic.
(2) If such marriage is not preceded by a publication of banns
(3) If the spouses-to-be are of the same sex.
(4) If the spouses-to-be do not consent.
(5) If one of the spouses-to-be is deceased, unless a waiver has been granted by the President of the Republic under the conditions laid down in Article 67 hereafter. The Nation shall protect and promote the family which is the natural foundation of human society. That is it shall provide social protection women, the young, the elderly and the disabled provide that proved to be harmful to them.
1.1) BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY