Friday, September 6, 2013

Nigeria: Senator Pedophile Yerima and Child Marriage

Recently, Stella Damasus, a mother of two took to Al Jazeera to voice out her grievance again. After watching Stella`s conversation with Senator Yerima on Al-Jazeera over the child-marriage and felt a sense of shame for our lawmaker, Senator Yerima. I felt a sense of shame as a Nigerian.

I like to commend people like Stella Damasus, Roz Ben Okagbue, Hannatu Musawa, Maryam Uwais, Aisha Osori, Helen Oviagbele, Oby Ezekwesili, Bisi Fayemi, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Gbemisola Saraki, Nana Nwachukwu and the many other leading women that have stood up and made their voices heard through their articles, actions, concerns and various commentaries on the girl-child and child marriage issue in what is essentially a deeply conservative, insensitive, anti-progressive and male-dominated country and society which really does not offer much sympathy or hope to the plight of women generally let alone that of the girl-child and infant bride.

Polygamy is recognized in Nigeria, but the import of the over 50 years old Pedophile Senator marrying a girl who could be his daughter is not lost on Nigerians.

Senator Yerima imported a 13 year old daughter of his Egyptian gardener as wife. He married this child in the presence of his fellow senators in a lavish ceremony at the National Mosque in Abuja, a mosque built with my tax payers’ money. He used his religion to justify his depravity. He even threatened to sue the National Human Right Commission for infringing on his right to freely practice his religion.

This generated fiery reactions from several quarters. For instance a coalition of Nigerian women’s groups, activists and academics signed and delivered a petition to the Senate calling for an investigation into the alleged marriage. They equally petitioned that the Senator is in the habit of having child brides. Sometimes in 2006 or thereabouts, he married a 15-year-old girl (Hauwau) as his fourth wife. The Senator divorced the said girl when she was 17 and nursing his child so that he could marry another wife. They urged the Senate to suspend him.

In his response, the Senator claimed he had done nothing wrong and would not respect any law that contradicted his religious beliefs. He further said, “history tells us that Prophet Mohammed did marry a young girl as well. Therefore, I have not contravened any law. Even if she is 13 as it is being falsely peddled about. For those who wonder if I can give my daughter(s) out in marriage at the age of 9 or 13, I tell you most honestly, I can give her out at the age of 6 if I want to and its not your business. This is because I am a Muslim and I follow the example of the best of mankind, Muhammad ﺻَﻠَّﻰ ﺍﻟﻠَّﻪُ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻪِ ﻭَﺳَﻠَّﻢَ .”

Yerima defends Child-Bride saying he followed the teaching of the prophet Mohammed

The Pedophile Senator is still in the National Assembly making laws for us. The irony is that this pedophile actually voted to criminalize consensual adult relationship between same sex people. He voted that gays be imprisoned for 14 years, while he goes home to rape his child-bride. Surely, pedophiles like Senator Yerima should not be making laws for the country in the day while they go home to rape their under-aged, child-bride in the night. What a sick society! Like Prophet, like Imam, like Senator. Prophet Mohammed did make a good head of the pedophile ring!

Senator Yerima`s first child bride, Hawau was the daughter of his driver. The second child bride is also the daughter of his Egyptian driver. He actually paid $100,000 dollars as the bride price and financed the transportation of the bride’s family to Nigeria for the marriage ceremony. It is hardly disputing that poverty is the basis for such families giving out their teenage daughters. These uneducated child brides could not have been able to give any consent and is a clear abuse of their person even under Islamic law.

Moreover, such child brides are denied the right to sexual autonomy as well as face multi dimensional socio-medical implications. The right to sexual autonomy includes the rights of women to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters relating to their sexuality. They are entitled to bodily integrity, pleasure and determine the intimate partner of their choice. In contradistinction, for these under-educated and adolescent girls, sexual intercourse is the likely consequences of their marriages. The assumption of sex within marriage is a priori consensual. The emphasis by Islamic scholars that whatever may be the age of the child, final consummation must be delayed until the parties are ready for marital relations, a condition determined by puberty is often jettisoned.

Tragically, recently in Yemen, Elham Madhin al-Assi, a 12-year-old girl died of internal bleeding three days after her March 29th wedding. The medical report by the hospital stated that she suffered from sexual exhaust, cervix tears and severe bleeding.

Child brides in most cases, cannot determine the period of pregnancy and are prone to early pregnancy. With this, they are susceptible to the increased risk of dying, increased risk of premature labour, low birth rate and higher chances that the newborn babies will not live.

There are also the serious medical complications of Vesico-Vagina Fistula (VVF) and Rectum Vagina Fistula (RVF).

VVF arises from obstructed and prolonged labour. When an under-aged girl goes into labour, her pelvic bones are not sufficiently developed to allow the passage of the baby’s head. Consequently, the foetal head presses on the surrounding tissue and organs. If this continues for long, the pressure can lead to fistula, in the form of holes between the bladder and the vagina (VVF) and in extreme cases between the vagina and rectum (RVF) Rectum Vagina Fistula. It is pathetic that girls with such medical conditions are considered unclean and ostracized by society.

According to our Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina, Nigeria has 800,000 cases of VVF today and we are adding 20,000 cases each year. Out of this, a whole lot of 80-90 percent of wives with VVF is divorced by their husbands.

Judging from the medical consequences of early marriage enumerated above, it is only logical for countries to legislate against child marriages. Therefore, Nigeria enacted the Child Rights Act (CRA) which amongst others out rightly prohibits child marriages.

The Northern States where the practice is endemic must exhibit the will to adopt and work the CRA for overall purpose of development.

Egypt, the world largest Arab nation was commended for his child protection laws amidst intense debate among conservative Islamists, moderates and secularists about the role of state, religion and families in child welfare. It is also the world largest Arab nation which equally shares some Islamic practices with Nigeria. However, it has outlawed child marriages.

In view of the practice in Nigeria, I make the following suggestions which are both
preventive and curative for combating child marriages:
  • Attitudinal change: Reforms must take cognizance of the power of traditionally structured family. But parents, family heads, traditional rulers and other stakeholders must realize there is need for change of attitudes towards child marriages. Awareness should be created that it is not a fight against religious beliefs, it is to save the lives of child brides from all the attendant consequences. 
  •   Adoption of Child Rights Act: The Northern Nigeria states must adopt the CRA without any modifications as depicted in the Jigawa Child Rights Law and the Borno proposed bill.

  • Consent of the bride: Bridal consent must be made an essential element of a valid marriage whether Customary or Islamic. This must be shown by an overt act and probably confidential questioning of the couples before solemnization of marriages.