SAY YES TO CHILD RIGHTS ACT
"Cradle Snatching"... That's what Oby Ezekwesili calls it. The recent debate on the floor of the Nigerian Senate that sought to ammend a section of the constitution has drawn opprobrium from the World. This section of the constitution was actually about the right of a woman to renounce citizenship when she is married and of age. While some Senators felt this vague provision of the law should be expunged others felt otherwise. This writer is of the opinion that all vagueness and unambiguity should be removed from our laws. This provision seems to assume that any married woman is of age, and as such can take such a monumental decision. This assumption is false. We all know that not all married women are of age.
Enter the Childs Right Act. This act specifically states that a child is only deemed to be of age at 18 years. Thus anyone found unduly exploiting an underage child is liable to pay 500, 000 naira fine and a jail sentence. Interestingly, the home state of this writer, Enugu State of South Eastern Nigeria is yet to domesticate this act. The last I checked 90 percent of the Northern States haven't domesticated this act. In the midst of all these, Former and present World Bank, United Nations officials have spoken and their voices will be heard.
I live in a country where street children and children on the street are an everyday sight. These are the children that grow up to become security threats to the nation. The young males are subject to radicalisation and the young females are sexually harrased on a day to day basis. The deception of marriage in getting a gullible woman to bed is an old trick. I must confessed that I have used this magic on women of age and to my surprise they have succumbed to my advances thinking I actually meant to marry them. This is what some men tell underage girls in my country "don't worry I will marry you".
Even when marriage actually happens early marriages are more likely to end in divorce. They are more likely to be unhappy marriages. The girls are more likely to forfeit their education. Their children are more likely to be poorly educated and may end up as street children or children on the streets. To assume therefore that a girl who hasn't reached the age of knowing who to vote for in an election can somehow decide whether to renounce her citizenship or not is preposterous.
These marriages are common place in poorly developed countries of the world. The least educated nations by population, tend to accept such as norm. But with enlightenment and good exposure, no lady will want her spouse to be chosen by her parents. If some benefactor wishes to help a poor family that is commendable. I lost my dad at 10 and we couldn't pay school fees for years. We couldn't even afford food. But we didn't marry our only sister off to some rich Ibo merchant. We prayed and believed and God saw us through. We had benefactors who paid our school fees, bought us school books, sewed our school uniforms but never asked for my little sisters hand in marriage. If any of them had tried such travesty I would have struck him with a machete! Today my little sister is married to a man in the United States. She is a Barrister and had Second Class upper in law school and in the Faculty of Law. She is pregnant with her first baby and she is 27 years.
Families that marry their under age daughters off tend to be so large that the bread winner can't cater for them. In my case we were just 3. If I ever get to the Senate, I will push a bill through the legislative process to insist that the maximum family size should be 3 children whom government would train through primary school, whom government will give free health care. This legislation has been attempted in the past but has failed because you can't tell a man how many children to have when you have nothing to offer him.
Families that marry their underage children off tend to be poorly educated. In my case we were from a family of academics, my paternal grand pa being an Indian trained Professor S. P. Obasi Kenechukwu of great fame, my maternal grand pa being the permanent secretary in the Federal ministry of Education, my dad being a pharmacognosist and my mum being at the time a holder of a PHD from UK. There was no way our only sister would have been married off to anyone! Things got rough for our family but with good education tough times won't last. Within 5 years our family economy was looking up. If I ever get to the Senate I would sponsor a bill that would make it mandatory to send children to secondary schools or else they wouldn't be allowed to vote when they come of age!
It is true that most girls are sexually active at a ridiculously tender age. In one clinic, the story was told of 2 primary school pupils who were sticking fingers into the others privacy! They were both girls. On further investigation, there was an adult boy who lives with one of the girls family. It was he who made a practise of dilating this girls birth canal with his little finger. If I were a senator I would sponsor a bill that would send that guy to jail!
It is true that in Federal Government Girls colleges, students use iron clothes hangers to terminate their pregnancies and report sick to class the next day. It is true that chemist men can abort a pregnancy for as cheap as 600 naira. If I was a Senator I would move for such chemist men to be locked up for life. I would move for the legalization of safe abortion. But the only discrimination will be that such termination services will be free for girls who can show proof that they are in school.
It is also true that University girls from ages 15 - 23 are used and abused at wild sex parties by leaders of my nation. If I were a Senator, I would sponsor a bill thay would empower whistleblowers. Nigeria needs her own Julian Assange and Snowden. We need our own Wikileaks that will expose the night atrocities of some men old enough to be grand pa's. We need a vibrant tabloid culture in my nation so that faces of such men can be splashed on the front pages.
Teenage pregnancy has its medical complications and I won't bore you with the details of Vesico Vaginal Fistula. I will only say that those Senators who agreed that the vague and ambigous section of our constitution be retained should have a rethink. This rethink should be devoid of religious bias. This is a social issue. It is an ideological issue. No Socialist mind will accept this. It isn't about religion. Please, every constituency who had a Senator support this travesty should kindly recall their Senator and ask Him to have a rethink. The House of Representatives should refuse this abberation. The First Lady should speak up as a Woman For Change...
I rest my case.
Iroko Obasi ND