Friday’s TV: Unreported world- Child Brides, Broken lives
UNREPORTED WORLD: CHILD BRIDES, BROKEN LIVES, Channel 4, Friday 28th November 7.35pm
In the latest of Channel 4’s ongoing Unreported World series, reporter Ravita Navai travelled to Nigeria in order to uncover the murky world of child brides. The programme reveals a bizarre throwback to more traditional days, when early marriage was seen as a convenient way to avoid thorny issues of female independence and, particularly, sex before marriage.
Navai is a little overbearing, as Unreported World journalists tend to be, but her presentation is clear and never errs too far into emotional declarations whilst maintaining a very human touch. It is however, in an interview with a doctor who treats fistula (Google it, if you dare) cases that we are given the most damning verdict on the issues surrounding premature marriage – “the girls are left crippled, physically, emotionally and socially”.
What becomes apparent over the course of the appropriately titled Child Brides, Broken Lives is the overwhelming weight of tradition and religion in Nigeria. Both the men and women of Nigeria have a good understanding of the physical and emotional consequences of early marriage, but the tradition of child marriage and the religious muscle behind it are still prevailing in half the country. Whilst central government have passed the Child’s Rights Act in an attempt to bring an end to a fairly heinous practice, even a moderate cleric declares that he should not have to follow man’s law when the Koran never explicitly says that young marriage is forbidden.
Navai gives the religious community little chance to speak its piece and political opposition is mentioned but never investigated. This could be a much more effective piece of documentary film making if Navai hadn’t spent all but a couple of minutes talking to those who had been directly affected by child marriages, and had given more time to those who object on principle to the prohibition of child brides. It is only by seeing such issues rationalised by those unaffected that one can understand the full horror of the position these girls find themselves in – trapped by culture, religion, tradition and politics.
By Christopher Harding