APPROPRIATING CHILD MARRIAGE IN NIGERIA

It is really disturbing, seeing men in their twenties dating young girls who aren’t even up to the age of 18, so I decided to put it up on social media, as one can only imagine how easily these minors can be manipulated by their so-called lovers. They could be constantly raped, sexually harassed, abused easily, because they are still under aged. And with the advent of social media, it has become very easy for these predators to pry on kids without anybody finding out. What’s more disgusting is the fact that the society has once again, turned a deaf ear to the issue. The reaction I got from putting the issue up on social media wasn’t impressive, to say the least. I got referred to the constitution and that wasn’t any better.

The age of consent is the age at which a person is considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts, and is thus the minimum age of a person with whom another person is legally permitted to engage in sexual activity. The consent age in Nigeria is 18, which means that having any sexual activity whatsoever with anybody below the age of 18, which is considered a minor, should be a crime. According to the Childs Act Law 2003, anybody who has sex with a minor is liable to conviction of life imprisonment, and it is immaterial that the person believes that the minor was 18 and above or it was with the consent of the child. But this act has only been domesticated in 23 states out of 32 states, although only two out of the 23 states actually implement the act (Lagos and Akwa Ibom) [1]. Also, according to the definition of Statutory Rape going by the Penal Code, having sex with a girl below the age of 14 years old, with or without her consent is what is considered as rape, and not 18 years according to the Child’s act law 2003. This is not to say that according to Islam, if an Imam joins a man with a girl, he can sleep with her once she starts puberty. Of course, Islam is a recognized religion in Nigeria, therefore, child marriage is allowed in Nigeria. 65% of children in the northern part of Nigeria were forced into marriage before the age of 18 [2]. According to UNICEF 2016, Nigeria is ranked 13th on the list of countries with high child marriage rate, with 43% rate. This is to say that we have a very long way to go.

The act of dating minors or getting married to them is a very barbaric one, and should not be condoned in a normal society. Obviously, these children are forced into the marriage by their parents due to poverty and illiteracy. The law allows it, therefore the people do not see it as a crime, which makes it really terrible, because the country has failed these girls, the government has failed their very existence by selling them into something not better than slavery. Even in other states where child marriage isn’t rampant, there are still adults dating kids without any fuss, how then can you call Nigeria a developing country when 43% of the women marry before the age of 18? How on earth do we have leaders from the northern part of Nigeria who cannot even fix where they came from? If rape isn’t normal in Nigeria, then 14 years olds shouldn’t be getting married, therefore, rape is normal, so is domestic violence and child abuse.

Please, let us begin to create awareness about this barbaric act and this horrible constitution that governs us, because it does not have our best interest at heart. Child abuse is a thing and should not be tolerated based on any tradition or belief whatsoever. We are not animals, so we should not continue to live like one. We need to speak up, because it could be our child tomorrow, or the child of someone we know. As my favorite quote goes, ‘all that is needed for the forces of evil to prevail is for the good men and women to do nothing’. These girls who are being wronged do not have the voice to speak for themselves, let us therefore be their voice.

[1] https://googleweblight.com/i?u=https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/171909-two-nigerian-states-implementing-child-rights-act-minster.html&grqid=BJybxcQn&hl=en-NG

[2]

https://googleweblight.com/i?u=https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/216659-worried-prevalence-child-marriage-northern-nigeria-government-moves-stop-practice.html&grqid=YnDhJyTw&hl=en-NG

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