CONTROVERSY OF THE NIGERIAN SENATE ON CHILD MARRIAGE

“By Islamic law any woman that is married, she is of age, so if you now say she is not of age then it means that you are going against Islamic law,” (Senator Yerima, who by the way married a 13-year-old girl)

NOTE: We absolutely did not intend to be wordy, so please note that absolutely every word embedded in the article that ensues is relevant, no verbiage!

Definition of the child (Article 1)

The Convention defines a ‘child’ as a person below the age of 18, unless the laws of a particular country set the legal age for adulthood younger. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the monitoring body for the Convention, has encouraged States to review the age of majority if it is set below 18 and to increase the level of protection for all children under 18.

Article 34 (Sexual exploitation): Governments should protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse. This provision in the Convention is augmented by the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography…(CRC)

The Conventions on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by all governments except Somalia and the U.S.A. This clearly implies that Nigeria is one of the nations who signed and pledged to protect children under the age of 18. However, on the 16th of July 2013, during the amendment of the Nigerian constitution, in Section 29 clauses 4(b) which states that “any woman that is married in Nigeria is of full age.” a controversy arose. Most members of the senate decided to amend the “full of age” to 18 years old, so as to make that section inline with other laws.

Senator Yerima opposed the bill and called for two different votes to preserve that clause because according to him, an amendment will be ‘anti-islamic’.  ”Given that 73 votes are needed in order to make the amendment, 60 senators voted for its removal as against 73 required votes, while 35 voted for its retention. ” (AllAfrica) that section of the clause couldn’t be deleted and hence remained unchanged.

After much uproar on the vileness this archaic clause implies, and the significance of the issue for the rights of the girl child, a number of  senators stated that Nigerians are mistaken and that the vote only applied to citizenship. Senator Akinyelure , while in tears, issued the following apology and explanation.

“The question before the Senate for which I voted in favour was that whether married woman [sic] is deemed to be of full, age to renounce her Nigerian Citizenship and not whether a woman can marry before attaining the age of 18 years.” (Ondo Central’s Senator, Ayo Akinyelure) (Washington Post)

The shameless abuse of religion to once again galvanize politicians away from the nucleus of the matter is nothing new, albeit the many protests on the issue Senator Yerima remains unshaken by his actions and issued the following statement in response.

“Nigeria has many uncountable problems and none of them is early marriage. As a matter of fact early marriage is the solution to about half of our problems. For those who wonder if I can give my daughter(s) out in marriage at the age of 9 or 13, I tell you most honestly, I can give her out at the age of 6 if I want to and its not your business. This is because I am a Muslim and I follow the example of the best of mankind, Muhammad (PBUH). In Islam, marriage is not only about sex, it is about family and helping one another in achieving their goals, which is the attainment of Paradise. In Islam, a girl can be given out in marriage as early as 6 years old, but consummation of the marriage can only be done when the girl becomes physically mature and she gives her consent to it because unlike English law, it is not permissible for a man to rape his wife in Shari’ah Law. So what can anybody tell me? I live in a city where young girls at the age of 12 have already became serial fornicators and cannot count the number of man they’ve had sex with. I live in a City where primary school children disvirgin themselves behind toilets on Valentine day. I live in a city where young girls flood the street at night looking for men that would give them N500 to have sex with them. I live in a city where parents send their daughters out overseas to prostitute and send dollars down. I live in a City where Government officials pick undergraduates from University car parks with Coastal Buses to wild sex parties. I live in a city where abortion is so common that even a Chemist store owner can perform abortion with just N2,500. These are your daughters, and this should worry you and not Yerima’s private matters. So ask me again why I support early marriage and I will slap the Jinn out of your head” (Senator Yerima) (National Mirror)

In all seriousness, if these 35 senators who voted for the retention of the clause are the brightest minds in Nigeria, then there is fire on the mountain, so lets extinguish it and forget about chasing rats. What has islamic law (Sharia) got to do with Nigerian law? And no Nigerians people are not confused, the senate is confused, this issue needs to be revisited and that ancient, impractical and potentially dangerous clause needs to be, in the word of a few senators, ‘expunged’.

 

If you are so inclined, read, share and sign this PETITION to get this law revised.

 

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