PROTESTS have continued to trail the Nigerian Senate’s passage of a resolution to amend the provision of Section 29 (4b) of the 1999 Constitution.
Section 29 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states: “Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation.”
Sub-section (4a) states: “Full age means the age of 18 years and above”, while (4b) says: “Any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.” By this, the constitution only allows marriage for a girl of 18 years and above.
But with the proposed amendment by the Senate, a married underage girl is deemed to be an adult.
Prominent Nigerians and human rights organisations have condemned the Senate’s move. Some have taken to the social media to protest what they described as legalisation of sexual abuse of underage girls.
Petitions have been signed to protest against the law. There are plans by the protesters to convey their opposition to the resolution to all state Houses of Assembly in order to force the Senate to reverse itself.
Those who protested queried why underage Nigerians could not exercise their franchise at the poll but were being subjected to marriage at tender age.
The Gender and Constitution Reform Network (GECORN), a coalition of women’s rights organisations across Nigeria, rejected the Senate’s resolution.
The organisation, in a statement by its National Co-ordinator, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, which was made available to journalists in Abeokuta, rejected the argument of Senator Ahmed Yerima that the proposal for the deletion of Section 29 (4) (b) which states that “any woman who is married shall be deemed of full age” is at variance with Islamic law.
“The constitution of Nigeria is the supreme law of the country.”
In a veiled condemnation of the development, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said: “As a father, I’ve never given out my daughters in marriage before university graduation. It’s a personal decision.
“I had earlier stated my personal choices on the child marriage issue. I have always supported our women and children.”
Atiku then went ahead to take on the Senate voting controversy directly, by twitting thus: “For avoidance of doubt, I do not support any constitutional provision which creates ambiguities about the age consent” and concluded by writing that “I strongly support strengthening the constitution to protect all citizens from abuse; men, women, girls and boys.”
The Serving Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, expressed his outrage at the amendment. Preaching in his church yesterday, Bakare wondered why the senators who would not allow their teenage daughters to marry would make such a law for other children. He urged the House of Representatives not to endorse the law.
On Twitter, several petitions have been sent where users condemned the Senate’s position.
Lagos-based pastor and motivational speaker, Sam Adeyemi, twitted: “If Islam permits something that the rest of the country and many parts of the world feel is detestable, then, it’s a serious issue. We cannot take away from a Muslim the right to practise his or her religion.”
Former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Nasir el-Rufai, also twitted: “We need your support. Criminals, from time, use religion to cloak perversion.”
Two of the many tweets by a former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, read: “We kid ourselves to think that we can catch up and compete with the rest of the world, when the Girl Child is constrained.
“I got married at 24 after my first post-graduate education. Some think 24 is early but then, I was ready to make sound decisions.”
Nigerian actress, Omoni Oboli, also twitted: “I shudder to think I wouldn’t be who I am today if some perverts had convinced my parents to marry me off before I turned 18.”
Nollywood actor, Nonso Diobi, stated: “If she can’t vote, then she can’t marry. A female child should be taken to the classroom, not labour room.”
Broadcaster, Mo Abudu, expressed her concerns, saying: “My heart is broken by the news from the Senate on Child Brides. This is not the Africa of 2013.”
-The Guardian has the full story.