July 28, 2013

Child marriage amounts to abuse of underaged girls – CAN

Child marriage amounts to abuse of underaged girls – CAN

Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, President, Christian Association of Nigeria preaching during the Vanguard End of Year Christian Fellowship Prayer, Themed’ There Shall be Showers of Blessing, organised by Vanguard Newspaper on Friday 9-12-2011 Photo by Lamidi Bamidele


ABUJA – THE Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has expressed worry over the inability of the Senate to expunge the provision of Section 29 (4) (b) of the 1999 constitution which states that, “any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age”, by the Senate.

The umbrella body of Christians in the country said the retention of the controversial section in the constitution by the apex legislative body is sacrilegious as it amounts to legalization of sexual abuse of underaged girls, just as it criticised Senator Ahmed Yerima (Zamfara State) over his comments, saying he is justifying his marriage to an Egyptian minor.

Senator Yerima, a former governor of Zamfara State on the floor of the Senate had argued that the proposal for the deletion of section 29 (4) (b) from the constitution, during the clause by clause consideration of the review of the 1999 constitution, by the Upper Chamber was at variance with Islamic Law.

National President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor who was irked by Yerima’s statement “finds that argument offensive, because it presupposes that Nigeria, a secular state, is populated only by Muslims”.

Oritsejafor, in a statement noted that “Yerima is again, advertently stirring up another controversy about the supremacy of Islamic Law over the Nigerian constitution after the one he raised, when he introduced Sharia, the Islamic Legal code, in Zamfara State.

“I think the problem is that people like Senator Yerima are approaching Qur’anic teachings from extremes and disturbing the balance. It makes me wonder the source of their emotions and thoughts that nurture them.

“As a Senator whose case of marrying a 13-year old Egyptian girl is still fresh in the memory of Nigerians, Yerima should only be seen and not heard in matters of this nature. If now he is commenting on a case in which he has interest, it can only mean the action of a man frenziedly trying to get himself out of the hook through some undeserved legislation.

“I appeal to those individuals who have been educated along this line in the Senate not to use their rights as Lawmakers to harm children below the age of 18, but to choose the interest of these children above their own. These girls should be allowed to develop, individually because this resolution, if implemented, would hound girls below 18 years into marriages they know nothing about. This is only one dimension of this tragic resolution.

“I feel that when individuals attain a certain way of thinking and understanding and reach certain status in life, they should be able to comprehend that it is necessary to adhere to conventions in line with best practices the world over and not harm other members of society, no matter their ages within the same society.

“This is why I consider the resolution of the Senate to retain section 29 (4) (b) selfish, delusive and a contravention of all known international conventions, protocols and ethics on the rights of the child to which Nigeria is a signatory. Child bride should not be encouraged or allowed in Nigeria. With over 12,000 women quoted by the National Demographic Health Survey as living with the Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) every year in Nigeria, fine tuning laws that would enable desiring Nigerians to marry primary school pupils is not what our legislators should be involved in. Rather, the Senate should strengthen the nation’s constitution by protecting all citizens’ rights, especially those of children from abuse. This would amount to legalization of sexual abuse of underaged girls.

“CAN rejects this resolution of the Senate and calls on the upper chamber to be more reasonable by revisiting the issue while it calls on all Nigerians of good conscience to resist this provocative resolution before our female children are dehumanized. By the grace of God, I will, personally mobilize Nigerians and lead the street protest against this oppressive and dehumanizing resolution. Why would the Senate after voting recoil simply because a point of order premised on religious basis was raised. We Christians also have Canon Law which frowns on marriage of girls