Poster Paper: Minimum Marriage Age Policies in Nigeria: A Policy Diffusion Model

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ene Ikpebe, American University

Early and forced marriage is the unfortunate reality of many Nigerian women. According to the 2017 UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children, 44 percent of Nigerian girls were married before age 18, and 18.2 percent were married before age 15. In 2003, the Child Rights Act was passed at the national level. Among other provisions to protect children, the policy stipulated 18 as the minimum age for marriage, but as of 2018, only 24 out of Nigeria’s 36 states have adopted the policy.

My study will develop a diffusion model to understand the adoption pattern of this policy. Potential determinants include female representation in state legislatures, educational attainment patterns, and poverty and unemployment. I will test hypotheses in these areas.

This study is important because the interplay of state autonomy with strong religious perspectives that differ significantly among states, and the multi-cultural and multi-religious populace creates an interesting environment for the adoption of any social policy. The results of my analysis will help guide national legislators in their bid to maintain the federal structure of government while protecting vulnerable citizens.

I will be using several sources of data. The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, the National Abstract of Statistics, and the Independent National Electoral Commission will provide information on the gender distribution of state legislatures. I will use the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey to test the hypotheses relating education, unemployment, and religion with time of adoption.

The results of this research will contribute new data to the policy diffusion literature. Specifically, data from a developing country like Nigeria with its peculiar experience of federalism that stems from the ethnic and religious diversity might offer new insights about what impacts policy diffusion patterns.

The results will also deepen discussions at the international level because the UN’s efforts to protect women and children’s rights is often hindered by domestic conditions like those that exist in Nigerian states. The UN’s norms and values are not legally binding on member countries, so it should seek to understand individual countries and their lower level governments.