Sometimes I disconnect from current issues because I feel powerless at all the debauchery going on, especially in Nigeria. It was the International day of the girl child only a few days ago but the truth is that we have such a long way to go in according the right value to girls and women.

Going through my Twitter feed, I came across the link to a Bella Naija story currently making the rounds. Apparently, the Emir of Katsina state is alleged to have abducted a fourteen year old girl and forced her into marriage. The Emir is at least fifty years her senior.

Please let’s process that for a second. It doesn’t matter if he was eighteen or twenty because it would still be wrong. But, for someone who is old enough to be her grandfather, it makes it even more appalling. And yet, he is supposed to be a leader who should set precedence helping his people to do better.

Just like in Ese Oruru‘s case, it is alleged that the girl Habiba Isiyaku was abducted and forced to convert to another religion, Islam.

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#ChildNotBride Campaign

Apparently, the Katsina Emirate Council considers the marriage irreversible. It was reported that the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has tried to intervene in this case after the girl’s parents cried foul. He condemned the action and appealed to the Emir also stating that in his own religion, a girl could not be given out in marriage without her parents’ consent.

But can we not make this about religion?

Because that would be problematic. This is not a Christian or Muslim polity. We are governed by constitutional laws, no? The legal framework I believe comes from a humanitarian perspective. At fourteen years, she is considered a minor and CANNOT consent to marriage. Child marriages must be abolished and the Nigerian senate needs to take a stronger stance towards this. What’s more, the judiciary must begin to enforce the law in this regard.

This should be an imprisonable offence.

No one should be above the law either. We need to send a strong message throughout our great nation that we as the Nigerian state, do not condone child marriages. In many constitutions, this is regarded to as statutory rape.

Let’s also recognise the fact that several crimes have allegedly been committed here. Abduction, domestic violence (because emotional abuse), statutory rape (assuming the ‘marriage’ has been consummated). Let’s outlaw this societal scourge and demand the highest penalty for the offender. If we continue to shout tradition or religion, we will go nowhere.

Nigeria please, we really need to do better for the girl child. Every one of us is Ese Oruru, and Habiba Isiyaku, and the Chibok girls. We want unfettered access to education, right to adulthood, right to healthcare, right to economic opportunities.

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