Ivory Coast father arrested after daughter, 11, forced to marry

BOUAKE, Ivory Coast (AFP) - A father will appear in an Ivory Coast court on Wednesday after forcing his 11-year-old daughter into marriage, judicial sources said on Friday.

The young girl was married in a ceremony on Thursday.

The identity of her husband, who was represented by his relatives at the wedding, is not known and he will not face prosecution, police sources said.

The case came to light after authorities were tipped off by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), said the judicial source.

"It was lucky for us. Due to an NGO we were informed of the case. Usually people refuse to denounce child marriage," said the source, adding that any subsequent trial would "serve as an example".

However, the same source did not disclose the specific charges being brought against the accused, a 37-year-old father-of-two. He is being held in Bouake, Ivory Coast's second city.

Marrying young in the Ivory Coast is not unusual, with 12 per cent of all Ivorians being wed before they are 15 and 36 per cent before the age of 18, according to a soon-to-be-released Unicef report, excerpts of which have been obtained by AFP.

One official with the United Nations Population Fund said it would be "fantastic" if there was a conviction in a case of this kind.

The arrest was made as part of a system implemented by a local NGO, Jakawili, or "Solidarity", in schools in central and northern Ivory Coast.

"This time it worked well, the director of the school warned us in time," said Mr Martin Kouassi, project coordinator with Jakawili, who said the organisation had prevented seven other such marriages this year.

Parents can often marry their daughters young to prevent the stigma of pregnancy outside marriage, said Mr Kouassi.