Helen Ovbiagele, Woman Editor
Many readers of this page commend Governor Fashola and his team for the bold and worthy step of recognizing this issue as a great problem in our society, and legislating in a way that could bring some relief to the pregnant woman who finds herself abandoned by her partner in the act. However, some believe that there could be some hiccups in the serious implementation of this law.
- Some readers wondered whether there wouldn’t be some discrimination in the calibre of offenders that would be prosecuted by the government; with the poor man being pursued by the police to come take charge of the pregnancy, while the rich and influential offender is not approached at all.
‘Aunty Helen, good day! With regard to ‘Law Against Abandoned Pregnancy? Good, but …..’ the Bill as signed into law by Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State is good, but the implementation and enforcement of such a Law will be a big problem. How do you bring the well-known and well-connected to the book? Over the years we’ve had some well-publicized cases of some VIPs who refused to accept paternity of an outside child because they felt that a casual fling/one-night stand couldn’t possibly lead to their partner getting pregnant. If this scenario is re-enacted, do you think that Governor Fashola can successfully prosecute such men in our very corrupt society? No way! This Law is just for the very vulnerable in Lagos State. – Celestine, mnse.’
‘Sister Helen, dis law no go go far o! I’m not a pessimist, but I live in a society where there’s a huge difference in the way that the Law treats citizens. Where the poor would be hounded, prosecuted and jailed for an offence, no one would dare prosecute the rich for the same offence. The issue of abandoned pregnancy is even worse where the rich is concerned, because, rather than go arrest and charge the man to court, he would be approached and told that such and such a person has brought up the case against him. The man gives money for the case not only to be rejected, but the pregnant woman put behind the bars on some trumped-up charges. Before she knows what’s happening to her, she’s having the baby in prison, and could be left there to rot for the rest of her life. I think the best way to handle the issue is for women to be discouraged from allowing themselves to get pregnant when they’re not married. Period. – Funlola, Abuja.’
‘Madam, I appreciate the concern the Lagos State Government has for women whose partners abandon them when they get pregnant, but the imagination boggles at the thought of a captain of industry, an important politician, and other high categories of our men, being actually prosecuted for not accepting responsibility for a pregnancy. I can’t see it happening. Who would dare go arrest such a person for such a report? In my opinion, this Law is for the man on the street. – Ije, Makurdi.’
- Some readers believe that instead of making such a Law, there should be an orchestrated campaign by the government of Lagos State among the womenfolk on the need for abstinence before marriage, or, the use of contraceptives by both partners always.
“My sister, I think we should do more to help a woman to avoid getting pregnant, than to encourage her to get pregnant without first getting married, by making a Law which would give her financial/emotional support from her sex partner, who may not be in a position to marry her. I can assure you that there would be some girls who would opt to have children outside wedlock, because of this Law. Let the use of contraceptives be widely publicized, and let sex education be properly taught in our schools. – Thanks, Funsho, Agege, Lagos.’
‘Madam, let’s teach our young people that having sex comes with a lot of maturity and sense of responsibility if you don’t want it to mess up your life. When there’s going to be sex in a relationship, both sides should prepare for it. They either get married so that sex is legal between them, or, they abstain until they’re able to get married. If abstinence is impossible, then contraceptives should be used to prevent unwanted pregnancy. As a woman, I appreciate the fact that the Law is to help the womenfolk, but I’m also a mother of sons, and , I wouldn’t want my son prosecuted because of a wrong action he mutually took with a girlfriend. Unless a girl can prove that she was raped by her boyfriend, I don’t think a man should be prosecuted for not accepting a pregnancy. A consenting girl should be asked why she didn’t take precautions against getting pregnant. It takes two to tango.’
‘Mrs. Ovbiagele, I strongly support this Law, but the government should break it down to what the man on the street can understand and relate to, because this is for him, not the elite who know what to do when a girl is pregnant for them. We need to properly know how this Law would be implemented. Thanks. Cleo, Lekki.’
- Other readers believe this Law if not properly implemented, is detrimental to a man’s legal family.
‘Helen, the Lagos State Government means well, but the implementation of this Law would be tough. I’’m female and I’m strongly against a man abandoning the woman who’s pregnant for him, but that said, there are some manipulative women out there who would want to use pregnancy in trapping a man into leaving/neglecting his wife and children, so that she and her child would be well-looked after. In many homes these days, both husband and wife contribute to the financial needs of the family. It’s bad enough for a man to stray and get a woman pregnant, but for his family to be punished indirectly by the Law, when he’s forced to take care of his partner in the crime, thereby reducing the amount of money he normally spends on his wife and children, is very unfair. – Shade, Kano.’
‘Aunty Helen, I belong to an NGO which runs a counselling centre for young people. We have had a few cases where a girl who’s pregnant for her married boyfriend, told us that the man asked her to have a baby for him. On one occasion two years ago when the man honoured our invitation to come discuss the matter, the man’s response was, ‘I never asked you to have a baby for me? You know I’m married with three children, and I can’t afford to have another one. How could I have asked you to have a child for me? You and I were just enjoying ourselves. You told me you were safe, and wouldn’t get pregnant. Why are you telling lies now?’’
“Auntie, the couple almost came to blows as they rained abuses on each other. Luckily, they calmed down and left. Five months later, the girl came to invite us to her wedding to another man. She didn’t look pregnant and we didn’t dare ask her what happened to that pregnancy. Like you suggested, free DNA tests provided by the government should be used to determine paternity before a man is prosecuted. – Thanks, Nancy, Onikan, Lagos.’
We thank all those who sent in their views.