BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Although the prevalence of early marriage is declining, considerable proportions of young women continue to marry as children, that isbefore age 18 (Mahmud 2005). It is globally recognized that early marriage truncates girls’ childhood and circumscribes several rights of thegirl child as outlined in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), including the right not to be separated from their parentsagainst their will (Article 9), the right to freedom of expression (including seeking and receiving information and ideas, Article 13), the rightto education (Articles 28 and 29), the right to rest and leisure and to engage in play and recreational activities (Article 31) and the right toprotection from sexual abuse, harassment and exploitation (Article 34)(Graham 2002). However, an increasing body of evidence fromdiverse settings shows that the long-held assumption that marriage is a safe haven for adolescent girls is untenable and that a number ofhealth challenges are associated with early marriage. This article synthesizes what is known about the links between early marriage andsexual and reproductive health vulnerabilities of adolescent girls in developing countries like Nigeria.Adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) comprises a major component of the global burden of sexual ill health. Althoughoverlooked historically, international agencies are now focusing on improving ASRH and providing programmatic funding. Adolescentsexual and reproductive health rights are based in various legal instruments: in 2002, the UN General Assembly Special Session on Childrenrecognized the need to initiate, develop and implement health policies and programs for adolescents that promote their physical andmental health( Janz 2014); in 2003, the Committee of the Convention on the Rights of the Child issued a General Comment recognizing thespecial health and development needs and rights of adolescents and young people(Langille 2000). Other supporting instruments are theConvention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the right to health—a concept included invarious international agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international Millennium Development Goals,which include indicators to reduce and eradicate if possible pregnancy rates among 15–19 year old, increase HIV knowledge amongadolescents, and reduce the spread of HIV among young people. Various terms are used to categorize young people: “adolescents” refers to10–19 year old (divided into early [10–14 years] and late [15–19 years] adolescence); “youth” refers to 15–24 year old and “young people”refers to 10–24 year old. In the world today, approximately half of the population is under 25, with 1.8 billion people are between 10 and 24years of age—90% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and many experiencing poverty and unemployment(Mago etal 2005). While sexual initiation and sexual activity vary widely by region, country, and sex, in all regions young people are reaching pubertyearlier, often engaging in sexual activity at a younger age, and even marrying earlier(Mahat et al 2001); consequently they are sexuallymature for longer before marriage than has historically been the case. The risks of neglecting Adolescent sexual and reproductive health aremuch; a painful or damaging transition to adulthood can result in a lifetime of ill effects. For girls, early pregnancy/ motherhood can bephysically risky and can compromise educational achievement and economic potential. Adolescent girls in particular—face enormous riskof exposure to HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sexual coercion, exploitation, and violence. All of these have huge impacts onan individual’s physical and mental health, as well as long term implications for them, their families, and their communities. Anadolescent’s sexual and reproductive health is strongly linked to their particular social, cultural, and economic environment. In addition toregional variation, experiences are diversified by age, sex, marital status, schooling, residence, migration, sexual orientation, andsocioeconomic status, among other characteristics.