Wife of Ekiti State Governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, has urged more men and women of good conscience, civil society organizations, feminists and social justice crusaders to lend their voice to the ongoing outrage about the move by the Senate to legalise child marriage.
In a statement by her Special Assistant on Media, Akin Oyedele, the governor’s wife described the lawmakers move as self-serving and at variance with all international conventions and protocols on the rights of the child, which Nigeria has ratified.
In calling for sustained protest against the move by the Senate to expunge Section 29 sub-section B from the constitution, Erelu Bisi Fayemi said that the lawmakers should channel their energy towards strengthening laws that promote the wellbeing of the child.
She said, “I’m not only disappointed in the decision by the Senate. As a mother, I’m ashamed, I’m unhappy and I’m pained that our senators, who also have female children, will vote for child marriage.
“This is time in the country’s history when men and women of good conscience, civil society organizations, feminists and social justice crusaders should stand up to be counted among those vehemently protesting against the decision.
“Instead of this self-serving amendment to Section 29 B of the constitution, our lawmakers should devote more time to legislate on laws that protect the child against violence, exploitation and labour, harmful traditional practices, abuse and denial of education.”
For instance, she said that Article 1 of the United Nations Convention of Rights of the Child, which Nigeria ratified, defined a child as every human being (male or female) below the age of eighteen years. Some states in the country, including Ekiti, have also domesticated the convention,
The UN convention clarified that anybody below the age of eighteen may be deemed not to be a child “unless the law of his or her country deems him or her to be an adult at an earlier age, which is rare.”
Section 277 of the Federal Child Rights Act of 2003 thus defines a child as anyone who is below the age of eighteen years.
In the furtherance of the ongoing constitution amendment, the Senate had voted for the deletion of Section 29, Sub sections A and B, which prescribes “full age” for a female to be deemed to be constitutionally ripe for marriage.
Section B specifically provides that “any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age,” while Section A defines full age as “eighteen years and above.”
As enshrined in the UNICEF mission, the governor’s wife said that it was the duty of the three tiers of government and the citizens to advocate the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.
She called on the National Assembly to encourage states yet to domesticate the child right act to do so, with a further call for the promotion and enforcement of the Law in states where they already exist.
Besides the social implication of hounding child girls into early marriage, including denial of childhood and teenage development, she said that there are inherent health hazards in child marriage.
According to her, the National Demographic Health Survey said at least 12,000 women are known to develop Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) every year in Nigeria, a good number of whom are said to be young, short teenage girls of poor social economic background.
Last modified: July 21, 2013