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Victims Of Forced Marriages Testify 

By Francis Tim Mbom

Two female students, Angela Ikil, 21, and Perpetua Iyali, 17, of GHS Mamfe, Friday, June 26, recounted to a seminar audience how their fathers, back in Manko, Akwaya Subdivision, betrothed them to over-aged men when they were still kids. Angela, who is now a Form Four student, said she only realise that her father had given her into marriage when she was in class five, while Pepertua said she knew of her situation when she was about 13.

Having attained the age of consciousness, the two girls said they began resisting the marriage contracts while their fathers, who had already received the bride price, insisted that they must accept the marriages."My father threatened even to kill me if I did not accept to marry the man he had chosen for me," Pepertua said.Because she refused to budge, Perpetua said the family of her supposed husband surreptitiously poisoned her and she developed a bad leg.

"They planted some poison on the ground and unknowingly I smashed it," she said.
The girl said it was thanks to Rev. Father Leonard Ekwale of Mamfe Diocese who came to her rescue when she decided to flee from the village. Perpetua and Angela have promised to form an association to raise awareness against the dehumanizing practice of forced marriages.

"We will also calling on the Government to punish these old men who marry young girls who are supposed to be their grand daughters," Perpetua said. The Limbe workshop was organized by two organizations: the Catholic Church’s CODAS Caritas in Manfe and Empowerment Limbe, which are currently battling to end this practice in Cameroon.

The Director of Empowerment, Divine Ewane, in his opening address said that it was not a fight for only the girls as victims but that "all hands need to be on deck to tackle the problem headlong." According to him, statistics reveal that "43 percent of women aged 25 to 29 years today did marry when they were below 18."

On behalf of Caritas Mamfe, George Eyong Arrey said that practice of early marriages where child were being given into marriage, some even before they are born, was very prevalent in the Asombu and Olliti villages in the Akwaya Sub Division.

This practice has been noted to hamper the education of the girl child whom he said is considered to be the back bone of development in every community. Eyong disclosed that in their battle so far, they have already freed some 16 girls so far. He said Caritas and Empowerment were seeking the support of other organizations to launch a national fight against this practice.

Dr. Alvine Longla Boma from the Law Department in the University of Buea said there was a need for magistrate and judicial police officers to ensure that perpetrators are brought to book. She also said there also the need for the revision of the Government to review the law which states that boys can marry at 18 and the girl child at 15. According to Mrs. Boma, this age needs to be informingly reviewed upward to the age of 21. To her, a girl at 15, according to the present law, was still not mature enough to be able to know or handle the exigencies that go with marriage.

The workshop participants also agreed that the reason why this practice was still thriving in some of this areas was because, like Akwaya, these are areas that are some what completely inaccessible either by road, radio or TV signals. Besides, these areas, usually, lack ample or no security posts and the perpetrators, definitely, are at liberty. The Organizers ended up by setting up a network that will hence forth work as one to combat the practice.

The Representative of the SDO of Fako said their office was behind the initiative and will willing support the efforts aimed against this practice. "The perpetrators are moving criminals, pending sanctions and imprisonment, the SDO said. "You have to be persuasive and have to be a model so as to win favour from the Administration and traditional rulers in this fight.

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