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CHILD BRIDE: IT’S LONG TERM AFTERMATH

By: Innocent Doris U.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same”.     – Nelson Mandela

Agnes sat down on the platform at the back of her house staring into space, her mind whirring like an electronic fan at its highest pace. As a young woman at 28 who has 6 children for a man who kidnapped her as a child and was forced by her uncles to remain with him, tradition they called it. She was only 14 and newly orphaned. Her life from then on turned inside out and all she had become accustomed to was a dark tunnel, at no time did she see the light as there was no one to show her the way. For the past 14 years of her life, she has endured a place worse than hell, because of her helplessness first as a child and subsequently as a mother who feared to lose her children. Her 4 beautiful girls and 2 little boys who were still running about in their knickers in their childish innocence, oblivious to the reality around them except for when their mother becomes a punching bag, which happens very often.

She smiled on the platform, so much sadness, anguish and pain in her eyes as she relived the past 14 years of her life. Life has been so cruel to her, as she endures constant pain, abuse, rape, neglect and even torture. She definitely didn’t suffer alone, any child who dared come between her and the man who calls himself her husband when he is beating her, would be beaten as well.

Samson really personified his name on her body, he was tall, dark and handsome, such an irony to his personae. It would be too kind to call him a beast, because even beasts have time for rest. He always found an excuse to hit her, rape her or even torture her, sometimes in the presence of their children. He also didn’t relent in saying terrible things to their children about her. This was the system that enabled her conceive 10 times; of those 10 pregnancies she lost 2, had 2 still births and nurtured 6 children who she is grateful, are alive and healthy.

As she continued her reminiscing, she remembered the many times she had woken up to realize that she had fainted from domestic violence. She took a look at her young battered body, the scars on her body and the gaping wound in her heart.

Samson had threatened to separate her from the kids forever if she ever dared to leave him. This threat was etched in her heart and so with every child she bore, her fear grew and so did her anger.

The most troubling part of her situation that has kept her in this quagmire presently is the plan to marry off her first daughter Ruth who is only thirteen, to a rich man who had promised to give them a new house, buy them three cars and send their two boys to school. Samson had eagerly agreed without her consent, she was deeply troubled; she was only a year older when she was kidnapped. She couldn’t stand and let the same evil that befell her and caused her, her entire life befall her precious baby.

By this time her tears had become groans and her tears like a torrential rain fall luckily, Samson is not home. As Agnes fights in her heart frantically for a solution, her mind wanders to what she could have become if only one adult had fought for her fourteen years ago, she could have been an enlightened graduate and would have every form of security any woman could dream of, be it mental, economic or even marital.

These and many more she wanted desperately for her children. She would fight tooth and nail and sacrifice anything to ensure that all her children would get the things she could only dream of. She is still thinking of a way out of this dilemma.

This is currently the plight of hundreds of young women somewhere in Northern Nigeria today. They transit from girlhood into womanhood in a nightmare they have no choice but to call home. The many unheard voices filled with anguish and pain still abound. Their Sexual, Reproductive and Health Rights are still violated thoughtlessly. Some of these young women and girls lose their lives during child birth or from domestic violence. Others contract Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) and are left to suffer until they are either helped or they eventually die. Some others who are bold enough to escape may never see their babies again. Others just endure the precarious situation due to fear and pressure from family and friends. These are the ones who cannot even cry silently, because of the burden in their hearts. I can hear the cries of this young girls; “Save us, the ones we were entrusted with, have failed to protect us. Rather, they have let us out to the wolves to devour. But, I am only a child.”

We see how Child Bride practices foster and sponsor Gender Based Violence and other Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) violations. This is the reason why this menace must be strongly hunted down and stopped. We must lend our voices to victims of Child Bride and reinvigorate their broken spirits and bodies. They have the right to dream as much as the rest of us do. We must also do our best to ensure that Parents and members of the society recognize child bride for what it is so that together we can discourage it, stop it and have a better Nigeria. A Child Bride Free Nigeria is a great Nigeria.

 

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Ending Child Marriage, the Malawian way : Taming the Hyena.

By Mary Uneje

malawian girl

The sun has gone down the city of Chipoka. Darkness is taking over the land and an uneasy calm hangs over the horizon. Inside the heart of Lilian (not real name), a twelve old Junior Secondary School dropout, who is set to be married off to an older man her father’ age, things are as uneasy as the horizon out there. A little moment from now, when darkness has taken over the land and mankind is lying down on their beds, the hyena will creep into her room to show her the way.

Malawi an African country known for its highest rates of child marriages is now beaming with smiles as its Parliament early last week passed a Law banning “Child Marriage”. Malawi rates as the 10th highest country with child marriage records in the world. The Malawian culture is deeply entrenched in child marriage with the belief that a girl child’s early marriage maximizes her possible chances of fertility. In some parts of Malawi including the Sena region and some other areas bordering Mozambique, sexual initiations are carried out on young girls which fuels child marriage. When a girl reaches puberty, she receives a night time visit from an older man known as “hyena” who has sex with her in preparation for marriage. According to the United Nations Education Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), 2013 report, about 14.2 million girls under the age of 15 are forced into marriages every year. The Human Watch Report on the Malawian Child Marriage situation report of 2013, puts it that 1 in every 2 girls is married off before age 18.  Saddened as this case may sound, the Malawians girls like Lilian and indeed the entire world who have been advocating for the rights of women and the youth would now be joyful that this country has turned over a new page as it deems it right to raise the minimum marriage age from 15 – 18 years. However, the Malawian traditional chiefs are still pleading for more increase as they said that at the age of 18 most of the girls are yet to finish from school and that it should be further increased to 21 years.

Lawyers Alert’ commends the Malawian Parliament for passing such a wonderful law at this point in time especially when the world over is clamoring for women liberation. But also wishes to state that the Malawian government still look into the supplication from the Traditional Chiefs for the increment of the marriage age of 21 years as pleaded. For such a girl child after graduation would not be a total dependent and a liability to her husband whereas a helper to her husband. Nigeria government who is not oblivious of this fight against discrimination and marginalization against women is also advised to emulate the Malawian government to see to the well being of the girl child especially in early marriage, education and other rights that is weighing on the girl child within the community where they find themselves and Nigeria at large. With the passage of this law, Lilian and her friends will finally be liberated from the fears of early and forceful marriage but most of all they would be happier because the age long hyena has at last been tamed.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Women Rights and Gender

 

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A PLEA FOR WASILAT TASI’U

By Elvis-Wura Towolawi

Take this as an unofficial allocotus, but we cannot turn a blind eye to a social sore that’s fast festering. A 14-year–old Wasilat Tasi’u has been arraigned in a Kano court for murdering her ‘husband’ and two others who ate a meal she allegedly poisoned. When apprehended by the police she accepted she did apply rat poison to the food of her ‘husband’ whom she alleged forcefully married her against her will. According to her, her Muslim parents married her off without considering whether she was ready or not; and the act was the only way out of the bondage of marriage she found herself. To her, the marriage was hell and a burden.

However, we write not to defend or endorse wanton poisoning of humans as a way of solving a social problem; rather we write to look at the underlying factors that drove the little girl to the act beyond the strict application of the law. And our argument, or rather plea is that the judge should consider all the societal factors that actuated the ill instead of applying the law in a legalistic tenor in order to do justice to both the girl and the society.

It is in the interest of society that humans be married in a bid to continue the chain of humanity through procreation. But it certainly can not be in the best interest of society to give infantile heads and bodies to the rigorous institution of marriage. Marriage is not a child’s play. Marriage is a turf reserved for both matured minds and bodies. Although Islam prescribes puberty as one of criteria for marriage, but reason should tell us that reaching puberty and being able to menstruate is not enough considering the physical, emotional and spiritual strain of the institution.

Facts abound in northern Nigeria amongst Muslim of early marriage. In fact, a renowned Nigerian Senator from Zamfara deals in marrying kids only to divorce them when they no longer tickle his fancy. But beyond following one’s religious prescription; what about the well-being of the nubile young girls? Many of these young girls with undeveloped crevice end up with VVF after childbirth – a social stigma of stench caused by their unripe marriage. Can we not also deduce that the rampant kidnap of schoolgirls and other young girls by Boko Haram to become ‘wives’ in their camp is driven and given impetus by such beliefs? Little Wasilat Tasi’u poisoned her ‘husband’ to escape the jail of such early marriage.

In sum, for want of space and time, we would appeal to the court to not just interpret the law of murder mechanically in this young girl’s case; but it should unveil and examine the root cause of the problem – child marriage. Marriage is not for babes and children!!

 

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