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Girls not brides!

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Thursday, February 11th, 2016

A hearty Gbosa!(Well done!) to Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi and her team for setting up this forum. It is much needed and long overdue.

A very loud Gbosa! (Well done!) also goes to all the people who worked towards making marriage for people under the age of 18 illegal in Zimbabwe. This victory in Zimbabwe became even more poignant when I read that the unprecedented ruling by the Zimbabwean Constitutional Court followed an application by two young women Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, who sought to have the legal age of marriage moved to 18 for both men and women. They were just girls when they were married and had their first kids. One can only imagine the courage it took these two Sheroes to rise, stand and fight against entrenched traditions.

They truly deserve to be celebrated. This victory in Zimbabwe drives home with even more force the need for us in Nigeria and other countries to address our laws regarding child marriages. According to UNICEF 43% of Nigerian girls are married before the age of 18 and a staggering 17% are married before the age of 15! And before you write these statistics off because you think you live in a State where the law is clear on this issue or because you do not know any girls in danger of being peddled off, please recall our most infamous incident involving an educated, powerful public officer.

Remember the case of the former Governor and serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who was reported to have divorced his “old wife” who was all of 17 years old and then paid $100,000 to replace her with a new model who was only just 13 years old? Well it happened right in our capital city of Abuja. Though the 13 year old child was from Egypt, the Nigerian Senator was unable to marry her in Egypt which is a predominantly Islamic country where 94.7% of the population are Muslim because of the law there which prohibits this kind of pedophilia. If you are like me, you would have been left scratching your head when he kept trying to use Islam to defend his actions.

So really, what is to become of our girls here in Nigeria? Are they to be left with only the kind of option that turned 14-year-old Wasilu Umar from Kano into a murderer? The poor child resorted to feeding her 35 year old husband rat poison, a week after she was given to him in marriage.

Hopefully we will have cause to give more Gbosas! If Aisha Buhari, wife of the president lives up to her promise. She promised a delegation of 50 adolescent girls who paid her a visit to mark the end of 2015 International Day of the Girl Child to fight for legislation against child marriage. This will go a long way in amplifying the efforts of the many NGOs, agencies and individuals who have been unrelenting in the fight against this form of child and sexual abuse. Excuse my language but we need to call this practice by its proper names. Let all the States in Nigeria who have not already done so, be prevailed upon to domesticate the Child Rights Law.

Bunmi Oyinsan, PhD,  is a writer,  researcher, filmmaker and edupreneur. She is a founder of Lekki Peninsula Affordable Schools and College which provides quality low cost  education.  

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