Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August 2014, 09:38 GMT

Niger: Forced and arranged marriages and, more specifically, the treatment of young victims (men and women) of these marriages; regions in which the frequency of these marriages is higher, and the possibility of refusing this type of marriage; the possible consequences, recourses and protection for a woman who refuses such a marriage (December 2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 19 December 2005
Citation / Document Symbol NER100877.FE
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Niger: Forced and arranged marriages and, more specifically, the treatment of young victims (men and women) of these marriages; regions in which the frequency of these marriages is higher, and the possibility of refusing this type of marriage; the possible consequences, recourses and protection for a woman who refuses such a marriage (December 2005), 19 December 2005, NER100877.FE, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f14784a.html [accessed 20 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Practice and frequency

The December 2005 UNICEF report The State of the World's Children 2006: Excluded and Invisible indicates that 77 per cent of women between 20 and 24 years old in Niger were married before reaching 18 (UN Dec. 2005, 45). The same percentage was recorded for the years 1986 to 2003 (UN n.d.a). However, in rural areas the rate reached 86 per cent, while that reported in cities was 46 per cent (ibid.). In a 5 January 2005 article, Amnesty International estimated that 70 per cent of women between 15 and 19 years old in Niger were already married. The percentage of girls married before the age of 18 was 82 per cent (AI 5 Jan. 2005; see also ICRW 13 Apr. 2005). In an October 2004 newsletter, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) mentioned the case of a 9-year-old girl in Niger who was forced to marry a man who was almost 40 years older than she. In the girl's words, quoted in the same newsletter, she did not "have any options" and was "resigned to [her] destiny" (ICRW Oct. 2004). Referring to nomadic Fulani herders, a UNICEF report indicates that [UN English version] "marriages are sometimes arranged for babies still in the womb" (UN n.d.b).

A member of the Nigerien Committee on Traditional Practices (Comité nigérien sur les pratiques traditionnelles, CONIPRAT), a non-governmental organization in Niamey that raises awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and struggles to protect youth from high-risk traditional practices, explained during 8 December 2005 telephone interview that arranged marriages are part of Nigerien tradition (see also UN n.d.b) and that the practise is seen in all ethnic groups. Without providing supporting figures, she added that forced marriages are more common in rural areas than in urban areas (CONIPRAT 8 Dec. 2005).

According to this contact, the level of education attained by girls and by their parents in rural areas versus that reached in urban centres explains the difference (ibid.). Furthermore, the CONIPRAT member said that one reason pushing some parents to marry daughters at a young age is the fear of pregnancy out of wedlock (see also UN n.d.b.) in cases where a daughter remains at home for a long time without a husband (8 Dec. 2005; see also UN n.d.b). The CONIPRAT member also said that the concern about obtaining a dowry as soon as possible explains why the majority of young girls in Niger are forced to marry men who are often older than their own parents (8 Dec. 2005).

State protection

The member of the Nigerien Committee on Traditional Practices said that the Niger government generally does not interfere with such marriages (CONIPRAT 8 Dec. 2005). She explained that the majority of these marriages are not celebrated before a civil registrar, so the marabout and other Muslim religious leaders have more influence than the government authorities (ibid.).

The CONIPRAT member added that a 1959 law, which is still in effect, states that the legal age for a girl to marry is 15 (ibid.; see also UN n.d.b). However, young girls are, in fact, compelled to get married well before that age (CONIPRAT 8 Dec. 2005; see also UN n.d.b).

Furthermore, the member said that she was unaware of any case in which a girl sought recourse from a court because of a forced marriage (CONIPRAT 8 Dec. 2005). The member said that marriage-related conflicts are generally resolved within the family or before a religious authority and that it is inconceivable that a girl would refuse a marriage imposed by her parents or take her parents to court (ibid.).

No information on men being forced into marriage could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Amnesty International (AI). 5 January 2005. Roland d'Hoop. "Les mariages forcés: Un drame trop souvent ignoré!" [Accessed 29 Nov. 2005]

Comité nigérien sur les pratiques traditionnelles (CONIPRAT). 8 December 2005. Telephone interview with a member.

International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). 13 April 2005. Geeta Rao Gupta. Testimony on Women and HIV/AIDS Presented to Committee on International Relations U.S. House of Representatives. [Accessed 13 Dec. 2005]
_____. October 2004. ICRW Newsletter, Vol II, No. 2. "From Research to Advocacy, ICRW Works to Reduce Child Marriage and Early Childbearing." [Accessed 13 Dec. 2005]

United Nations (UN). December 2005. UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). The State of the World's Children 2006: Excluded and Invisible. [Accessed 14 Dec. 2005]
_____. N.d.a. UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). "At a Glance: Niger. Statistics: Basic Indicators." [Accessed 30 Nov. 2005]
_____. N.d.b. UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). "At a Glance: Niger. Real Lives: Preventing Early Marriage in Niger and Benin." [Accessed 13 Dec. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

Publications: Africa Confidential, Africa Research Bulletin, Jeune Afrique/L'Intelligent, Resource Centre country file.

Internet sites, including: AllAfrica, Amnesty International, BBC Africa, The Danish Immigration Service Reports, Demographic and Health Surveys, ECOI.net, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), IRIN, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Women Living Under Muslim Laws, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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