2. They’re doing it already, so why not just legalize it?
3. The law only affects those who practice it.
4. It is the religion of the Muslims, just like Sharia, so they should be allowed to practice it.
5. Legalizing it is the same thing as legalizing gay marriage.
6. The men don’t actually have sex with the young brides until they are of age.
7. This law doesn’t actually exploit children; instead, it gives child brides the same rights as adult brides, so that they won’t be disrespected and/or looked down upon by the adult wives.
8. Being married early is a better option for the child bride than being sent off to become a house help.
9. Little girls are already having sex and getting married anyway, so this law protects them from having bastard children.
10. The little girl is at least given the choice of which old man she wants to marry.
The new law in Nigeria states that a woman is full of age once she is married, regardless of the age at which she did so, and this was inspired by Senator Sani Yerima, former governor of Zamfara State who in 2010 married a 13 year old Egyptian girl and paid her family a whopping sum of $100,000 for her dowry. He defended his decision to marry a 13 year old girl as his fourth wife by saying that the great Prophet Mohammed married at the age of 9, therefore making any marriage to a person 9 years or older to be in accordance to the teachings of Islam.
Before Yerima interceded, the law makers had originally said that 18 was the legal age for anyone to be married. After his intercession, 34 other Senators agreed with him. What I, like many others, want to know is how 35 Senators made the decision in a house of 109 Senators.
On Saturday, July 22nd, we discussed the issue of the legal child bride on The Verastic Show. People listened and called in, and everyone pretty much shared the same opinion: it’s wrong. But then, we had a U.K. based caller – Addison – who called in and said that he saw nothing wrong with the law because of the 10 reasons stated above.
Everyone was up in arms, wondering how a person – especially one based in the U.K – could have such an orientation. The reality, unfortunately, is that Addison is only one man, and for every Addison you meet, there are thousands more like him. As Nigerians, we are always so quick to talk about our culture, our values, our traditions, and of course, our religion, and we are so stuck in our ways, so oblivious to human rights and to life and death, that we murder and destroy in the name of God (and culture).
There is a valid reason why the western world looks at us and spits in disgust. In 2013, certain things should not be a topic of conversation. Whether or not a grown man is allowed to rape a little girl – legally, by the way – or not should not even be on the table. There is no reason or justification for why a grown man is allowed to force his penis into a little girl, all in the name of marriage. It is wrong, and we should not be afraid to say so.
Yes, it has been happening. Yes, there has been no punishment or accountability for adults marrying a child. But no, we should not take twenty steps backwards by making it legal. Nigeria has been known as a nation of fraud. Recently, we have also acquired the terrorist title. With this new law, we will soon also we known as a nation of pedophiles.
What kind of nation will we be if we rob our little girls of their lives and future and sentence them to a mental, physical, emotional, and sexual life imprisonment with no parole? What kind of future Nigeria are we building where the mothers are merely children themselves? If a person can only give what they have, then how do we expect these children to be mothers, a skill they do not have? It takes more than birthing a child to be a mother. A child can only be a child, not a wife. And certainly not a mother.
I would like to point out that while some people are of the impression that this is a cultural problem, it is actually a socio-economic problem. It is no coincidence that the abomination of marrying child brides is prevalent in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the UNICEF, “between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls will become child brides. If current levels of child marriages hold, 14.2 million girls annually or 39,000 daily will marry too young. Furthermore, of the 140 million girls who will marry before the age of 18, 50 million will be under the age of 15.” [Source]
“Girls married young are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence and sexual abuse than those who marry later. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death in young women aged 15-19. Young girls who marry later and delay pregnancy beyond their adolescence have more chances to stay healthier, to better their education and build a better life for themselves and their families.” [Source].
“While data from 47 countries show that, overall, the median age at first marriage is gradually increasing, this improvement has been limited primarily to girls of families with higher incomes.” [Source]
There is a petition on Change.org for the United Nations to stop this madness in Nigeria. Currently, 16,378 people have signed this petition, and I am proud to be the 16,378th person. I urge you to sign it. I do not know if this petition will persuade the UN to step in, and even if they do, I do not know if it will make any difference, but I do know that for everyone reading this, signing the petition is the very least that you can do. So do it. If we all sit back and say that signing will make no difference, then we have failed before we even start, so let’s do what we can to not kill our little girls.
Sign the petition here. And tell your friends and family to sign it, too. You don’t have to be Nigerian, African, or even female to understand the gravity of this situation. You only have to be human. So please do the human thing and sign this petition.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
~ Desmond Tutu
P.P.S. By the end of the show, Addison began to put himself in the shoes of the child brides.