An 11-year-old Yemeni girl named Nada al-Ahdal brought worldwide attention to the plight of child brides this week when her video explaining why she had fled her family to escape forced marriages went viral, attracting nearly 7 million views.
As my colleague Caitlin Dewey explained, Ahdal's plight is just the tip of the iceberg: Child marriages are common in much of the developing world, where young girls sold into marriages -- often by poor families who need the money -- are less likely to finish school and more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth complications. Many advocates consider child marriages, like prostitution or forced labor, to be a form of human trafficking.
Ikenna Azuike, a Nigerian-British creator of viral videos, has used the opportunity to shine a light on Nigeria's ongoing dispute over whether or not to allow child marriages. The country's constitution includes a provision explicitly allowing child marriages. Though some Nigerian lawmakers recently fought to pass an amendment changing this -- the issue is highly controversial -- it was ultimately unsuccessful. The failure led to wide public outrage in parts of Nigeria, especially among Christian groups. Nigeria's population is roughly half Christian and half Muslim.
Nigeria is the world's seventh-largest country, with about 174 million people. But many of its citizens are children, and the country is expected to become the world's third most populous within the next few decades. Laws on marriage age, then, could affect millions of Nigerian girls.
The effort to protect the constitutional provision allowing child marriages is led by Sen. Ahmed Yerima, former governor of predominantly Muslim Zamfara state. In 2010, Yerima sparked international controversy by marrying a 13-year-old girl. Then, at age 49, he had reportedly paid a $100,000 dowry for her, according to al-Jazeera.
Azuike's video catches you up on the political battle within Nigeria and provides a window into the outrage felt by many in and outside the country who oppose the constitutional provision. His YouTube series, "What's Up Africa," explores African politics; we recently posted his video explaining Zimbabwe's election controversy.