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‘Child marriage not in conformity with Nigerian Law’


Many days after the news broke, reactions to the proposed Child Marriage Law show no signs of letting up. From clerics to educationists, lawyers and of course, activists, opinions are divided. While some believe the customs and traditions of  northern senators agitating for  child marriage  should be taken into consideration, the majority have outrightly condemned such a move. Here are what experts think about the Senate’s controversial endorsement:

We must bow down to the culture and traditions of  our people—Ebenezer Babatope

I believe before the National Assembly would approve such a bill, they must have taken into consideration the customs and traditions of the North. But I don’t support child marriage in any way.

Ebenezer Babatope
Ebenezer Babatope

I am a Christian and Christianity is against such. How can a girl be given out in marriage? A girl is not mature enough for such an institution, but we must bow down to the culture and traditions of our people. The only thing I won’t agree with is if it is forced on other states outside the North, because you can be sure other states of the Federation are against such a move.

The solution lies in education and enlightenmentFestus Okoye

If I had a 13-year-old daughter, she should be in school and not married. A 13-year-old girl, for instance, cannot form a credible opinion of what life and marriage are all about. She can’t even form a credible opinion about herself and her body.

Every country must conform to the prevalent world movement; although I agree that sometimes, customs and traditions affect the way we think and act. But we must see that those traditions are in line with what obtains in the world. Even those who married girls in the olden days didn’t sleep with them until they reached puberty and maturity.

The solution here lies in education and enlightenment. I see it more from the physical and physiological development of the girl child. We must be educated about the dangers of early marriage so that we can all keep ourselves in check.

Child marriage not in conformity with the LawJustice Odunowo

*Justice Tajuddeen Odunowo (rtd)
*Justice Tajuddeen Odunowo (rtd)

Child marriage can’t be in conformity with the law because the law says anybody that reaches 18 years of age is mature and therefore can vote. So, it means any girl not yet 18 is not an adult. To give an underage girl out in marriage is an abuse and against the law.

Personally, I don’t know about customs and traditions that could support such. In places I’ve heard of, even if the girl is given out in marriage, she continues to live with the family she was married into until she matures.

We must therefore nullify such a thing because it doesn’t make sense both legally and morally.

Yerima should tell Nigerians where his daughters are — Carol Ajie (LAWA Fellow, Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa)

No, God forbid! A girl child should be in school. The bill is criminal and should be disregarded. The customary laws of the land cannot overrule the supreme law.

Carol Ajie
Carol Ajie

So such obnoxious traditions in Nigeria should be done away with as soon as possible. The senators who shamelessly gave the law their own interpretation should be prosecuted. This same senator who led the agitation for the acceptance of the bill, years back, took a girl as a wife and kicked her out after 18 years.

This same senator took another girl from Egypt. Two years back, they wanted to prosecute him but he rushed to court to stop the wheels of justice from rolling against him. It’s this same Yerima that wants to contaminate our laws. Why is he comparing himself to Prophet Mohammed? He’s committing a sacrilege because he isn’t Prophet Mohammed! Didn’t Jesus Christ raise the dead? Can I raise the dead or do I have such powers to do so? Children should go to school, live their lives and then decide when to get married.

He should tell Nigerians how many girl children he has and did he give them out in marriage before 18 years? I bet you, his girls are in school. So why does he want to contaminate our laws?

We have to condemn this in all totality. A protest must be staged because we don’t accept it!

They want to give our young girls VVF—Yinka Odumakin

As far as I am concerned, the early marriage thing is a negative blow on our morals in this nation. The Senate Committee on Constitution Amendment is trying to cover up.

Joe Odumakin
Joe Odumakin

They want to change the clause in our constitution. The Yerimas of our time go about taking more underaged wives while their children go to better schools and others to VVF.

The senator in Ondo State who joined in signing the bill was totally disgraced during the week by both women and Youths. He was disgraced to the extent that he begged the people for forgiveness. I believe it is time for us to have a national conference. People like us who would not want our daughters to be subjected to early marriage need to set up a fight to allow our daughters go to school.

It’s a sin against God and humanity—Akpori Okon

To me, this is a very big sin against God and humanity. These kids that you want to marry out early know nothing about marriage. Do you expect them to start learning all those things with their so-called husbands? Sometimes I ask myself, how would an old man feel sleeping with a kid?

I think something should be done about that – and fast too. Things like that shouldn’t be given a second thought before scrapping them. I am totally against that and I am sure every right-thinking Nigerian should not support such bills.

It is paedophilia— Tolagbe Animashaun (Senatorial Aspirant, PDP, Lagos Central District, 2011)

When a man gets married to a girl below the age of 18, he should be charged to court for paedophilia since we are copying the United States Constitution. There is a law in the US that protects children. Any adult that has anything to do with a minor is charged under that Law. It is regarded as contributing to the delinquency of a minor and carries a capital punishment.

Yerima, with no apology to him, is not fit to be a member and those senators that adopted child marriage are a big embarrassment to their constituencies. I am a devout Muslim and very much against it.

They should stop hiding behind any religion or tribe. Whether in the North-East or North-South, a child should be allowed to grow to her full potential before you put her in the family way. Will these senators encourage their  own children to go into early marriage?

The child in this context has virtually nothing to benefit from it because she is not even up to the age of consent. Why can’t they wait until the child decides what is good for her?

Our leaders need renewal of mind— Jacqueline Odiadi, President, Nigerian Association of University Women (NAUW)

Jacqueline Odiadi
Jacqueline Odiadi

The recent advocacy drive by Hon. Senator Yerima, the renowned husband of a minor and his cohorts, came as no surprise. A lot of noise was made at the time he married the Egyptian minor with a lot of fanfare, a marriage ceremony graced by a number of respectable and notable Nigerians. But as is the usual practice in Nigeria, after the initial noise, nothing else was heard and no action was taken.

The essence of education is lost if the transformation expected by the training and exposure is not imbibed and lived.

The advocates of child brides, going by the list being peddled by the media, acquired some form of education and can be categorised as frequent travellers. But unfortunately, this has done nothing to develop the minds and broader outlook of these people.

The religious argument being peddled in support of marriage to the   underaged is not tenable. In progressive Islamic countries, the intellectual, physical and general well-being of the girl child is on the front burner of developmental issues.

The Northern leaders are yet to come up with a solution on Boko Haram, the socio-economic development of the Northern part of Nigeria has been flung back decades and what is of paramount importance to these advocates of  child brides is  to satisfy their sexual urge and distort innocent minds.

I believe decent and progressive human beings should challenge this move to further dent the image of Nigeria and Nigerians. Our leaders need a transformation of the mind, body and soul to make them relevant to modern-day living in order to advance the country and its peoples along the path of global development.”

Nigerian Child has a right —Tunde Adeleye, Human Rights Activist

Quite rightly, any reason-able and sane person should be outraged about the stance of the National Assembly supporting child marriage. What surprises me more is the deafening silence from female Senators about the child marriage issue.

Not so long ago, the same Senate went up in arms denouncing gay marriage on our shores.  Clearly, the supposed premise to justify child marriage legislation simply does not hold water. What the proponents of child marriage have callously disregarded are the health complications the young minors go through during childbirth. Due to their small pelvis, complications arise whereby it results in Vestico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) – the leakage of urine and faeces through the vagina.

Evidently, these innocent young girls (minors as young as 9 years old) being abused sexually have no voice of their own. They should be in school receiving quality education. They have a Right under the Nigerian constitution to be protected and not abused. For this reason, they shouldn’t be allowed to grow up so fast and their childhood taken away from them, leaving them scarred emotionally for life.

Not surprisingly, religion and culture have been used as convenient tools over centuries to hoodwink the Nigerian society. To a degree, there is nothing overtly wrong with that, provided such laws and beliefs have led to visible transformation in the society without infringing on the rights of the people.

It is heartening to note that with the passage of time, the world is changing. People are evolving and becoming more enlightened. Even Muslim countries that used to practise child marriage have since abolished it. Similarly, the Nigerian Constitution drafted during the military rule, on the basis of a secular and not Islamic country, needs to be re-drafted as it is not representative.

Legalising child marriage  is    shameful —Akintokunbo Adejumo

Akintokunbo Adejumo
Akintokunbo Adejumo

My take on this issue is that by subtly endorsing child marriage in Nigeria, the Nigerian Senate has brought the country massive shame (we are already a joke in the comity of nations anyway). The message that is sent to the watching and discerning world is that we would rather abuse our children than protect them; that paedophiles are welcome in Nigeria.

I can already imagine seeing an influx of notorious Western paedophiles rushing to Nigeria as they used to do in Thailand, Philippines and some other Asian countries.

This is also an invitation to those wishing to embark on or commit such a crime.  But take some examples: In the United Kingdom, even watching child pornography will certainly land you in jail. If caught in the act itself, a very long prison sentence awaits such a pervert. In some countries, even, any person caught with an underage will be castrated. That is how seriously this issue of paedophilia is taken.

I was not shocked at all. Since 1999 when this current so-called democratic dispensation or rather, democratic farce started, Nigerians have slowly realised that these so-called legislators have never had our interests at heart – only to collect their atrocious and obnoxious remunerations, chase contracts, nurture their inordinate ambitions to further impose themselves on us, corrupt the youth and generally show their ignorance of the positions they forced themselves in.

The nature of the laws that have up to date been made by the Senate informs us of the calibre of people in this supposed Hallowed Chamber. They are morally bankrupt. It is rather naïve to blame Senator Yerima alone; we should blame all these charlatans calling themselves lawmakers. They are law-breakers.

Aren’t there  female Senators in the house when this law was being debated and then put to  vote? And they sat there and supported that young women of this country should be further debased and raped? And with our various Federal and State (and even Local Government) First Ladies surpassing themselves for recognition, are these phonies not supposed to be ‘mothers of the nation?’ Yet, they are looking at the rape and degradation of their female children?

Child marriage is another form of enslavement—Tunde Tella, Secretary, Abeokuta North Local Government

Nigeria seems not to be satisfied with the numerous challenges she is battling with and ready to create more problems. May 24,2012, the United States Senate passed the International Bill Protecting Child Marriage Act (s.414).

This bill was passed  unanimously by voice vote,demonstrating strong bipartisan support for an end to child marriage. So why should such   be legalised in Nigeria? This is a practice that will deny millions of girls their rights to health, security and education

Again, this child marriage is another method of enslavement because the child in question does not even know what marriage is. The life and future of the girl bride will be at the mercy of the man because she cannot make concrete decisions about her life or future. Also,the girl in question does not understand love or her responsibilities as a married woman.

Whereas marriage should  be a bond agreement between two people that are of age. For me,child marriage is absurd because it leaves the girl child socially isolated with little education, skills and opportunities for employment and self-realisation.

It is forced marriage—Barrister Kaka

Let me start by saying that child marriage constitutes forced marriage. Forced marriage can be explained as a marriage established without the valid consent of one or both parties, and at such duress whether physical or emotional is non-negotiable.

Barrister Kaka
Barrister Kaka

Child marriage should be recognised as violation of children’s rights and a direct form of discrimination against a child, especially the girl bride who as a result of the practice is often deprived of her basic rights to health,education, development and equality.

The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child,1990,Article XXI, states that “child marriage and the betrothal of girls and boys shall be prohibited  and effective actions, including legislation, shall be taken to specify the minimum age of  marriage to be 18 years.”

On the part of the Senate’s Child Marriage Bill, there was no age certification,which means there is ambiguity in that bill. What was passed into law is for a girl child that is married to be accorded adult status. The Senate still needs to sit over this issue.

There should be a clear definition of the child in this regard. The Nigerian Constitution states that adulthood  begins from the voting age of 18years and now these senators want a person below 18 to be accorded adulthood. It has to be upturned.

Also, the implication of child marriage on the society is that anybody can decide to behave irrationally to a girl. It is like legalising immorality, promoting promoscuity  and forceful marriage.

It will cause complications during child birth – Medical practitioner

The child bride is likely to become pregnant at an early age and there is a strong correlation between the age  of a mother and maternal mortality. Girls between ages 10-14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-24, and girls aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die.

Young mothers face higher risks during pregnancies, including complications such as heavy bleeding, fistula, infection,anaemia and other ailments which contribute to higher mortality rates of both mother and child.

It’s a symptom of faulty federalism —Adegbuyi

A chieftain of the Afenifere Renewal Group and lawyer, Mr. Bisi Adegbuyi, described the controversies trailing the inability of the Senate to remove the obnoxious law encouraging girl child marriage from the Constitution as unnecessary misconception and interpretation.

Attributing the issue to Nigeria’s faulty federalism, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) stalwart regretted that Nigeria’s fault lines were widening and canvassed enthronement of a true federal structure that would take care of Nigerian’s diverse cultural and religious beliefs.

Last Tuesday, the Senate, as part of the ongoing constitutional amendment exercise, voted that any married woman of ripe age is free to renounce her citizenship.

The Senate wanted to expunge a controversial section of the constitution which makes any married woman an adult, but the proposal failed because those in favour could not get the 2/3 majority votes constitutionally required for the proposal to sail through due to shortage of 13 votes because 60 Senators voted for its removal as against 73 required votes; while 35 voted for its retention.

The alleged under-age marriage provision is an existing law in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as contained in section 29 clauses 4(b) which states that “any woman that is married in Nigeria is of full age.”

The failed amendment is generating furore in the polity following the interpretation that an under-aged girl who gets married will be deemed to be of full age (18 years and above).

Reacting to the controversies, Adegbuyi said there was a need to clear the misconception and misinterpretation of Section 29 (4a) and (4b) of the constitution, which he said were in respect of a woman who wants to renounce her Nigerian citizenship.

According to him, the Child Rights Act sufficiently deals with the issue of under-age marriage.

Adegbuyi said the controversies would not have arisen if the country  had been practising true federalism. “There are cultural differences and different religious beliefs in Nigeria. If your culture permits taking a child as a wife, nobody can stop it.

In Yoruba land, Western Nigeria, where I come from, our culture and history frown at marrying an under-age. But Western Nigeria is not Nigeria as a whole. We have different people, different backgrounds and different cultures. There is no culture that is universal.

“The Federal Government as represented by the National Assembly has no business talking about marriage. That is why we say let each state have its own constitution so that if people of a particular state want under-age marriage, they can do it within their state without making it a national law.

“The fault lines of Nigeria as a nation are becoming manifest. So this one-size- fits-all approach to issues will continue to break Nigeria down. People who believe that their religion allows them to marry under-age girls should do so within their area of jurisdiction.

“We will not do ourselves any good if we continue to vilify the Senate. The obnoxious law is in the Constitution. The Constitution was not made by the Senate. The Senate wanted to amend it and failed. It is a specific provision regarding a woman who wants to renounce her citizenship and not marriage.”


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.