Women’s rights and marriage



A woman is a female who has attained full age (18 years old) or is married.

Section 29(4) of the Nigerian Constitution:

(a) “full age” means the age of eighteen years and above

(b) any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.

What are Women’s Rights?

Women’s rights are legal/statutory entitlements that women and girls should enjoy simply because they are human beings, members of a society or in certain cases, because of their gender. Hence, some women rights are not special to women but are classified as women’s rights, so that it will be clear that those rights are not to be enjoyed by men alone, but by women as well. Women rights can also be exclusive to women because of their status as women and this covers issues relating to maternity.

What are Marriage Rights?

In addition to rights which are enjoyed by everyone in a society (like, the fundamental human rights), people also have a right to get married according to the laws of their society and to enjoy the rights and duties from such. When a person is married, they may also be entitled to a new set of rights that come as a result of their status as married people. This may include, right to share property of the marriage, right to custody of children of the marriage and right to exit the marriage. Some marriage rights are also fundamental human rights, since marriage does not affect, degrade or limit any fundamental human right.

This work provides a practical guide on women’s marriage rights in Nigeria. The information contained in this guide highlights women’s marriage rights under the three types of marriages in Nigeria (Statutory, Customary and Islamic Marriages). It reveals the rights of married women in Nigeria to enter and exit marriage, right to custody of their children, ownership of any property and other fundamental human rights.

It equally provides practical steps for enforcing those rights as well as contacts of government and non-government stakeholders that help with enforcement of such rights in Nigeria.


The scope of this guide

This guide discusses the rights of women to enter into marriage, their rights while married and their rights to exit their marriage in Nigeria. The guide examines the national laws and cases relating to marriage rights of women as well as relevant and applicable international law.

It also reveals both judicial and non-judicial redress options, persons that can enforce rights, evidence needed to enforce rights, possible remedies, available legal aids and organizations that can assist.

This guide does not cover all rights of women in Nigeria, it rather focuses on the selected rights of married women, in entering into marriage, leaving their marriage, getting custody of their children and managing property of their marriage, under the three recognized marriage systems in Nigeria (Statutory, Customary and Islamic Marriages).

This guidebook is not intended to be a substitute for any professional legal advice and does not have any formal legal status. Information contained in this guidebook are valid as at the date of publication, and any subsequent change in law, policies and forms are not considered.



This guide was put together by a team of Lawyers, CSO Experts, and Law Students (NJEF Fellows) in partnership with NULAI and Action4Justice.

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