A resolution recently passed by parliament deleting a constitutional clause that defined 18 years as the "full age" by which marriage should be valid for girls has sparked national outrage, with many warning that it is a ploy to legalize child marriage through the backdoor and threatening national protests to reverse it.
Babafemi Ojudu, a senator from Nigeria's south who voted to retain the deleted section, said it was a sad day for Nigerian girls.
"But I can tell you it is not the end of the debate as more and more Nigerians will stand up for the right of the Nigerian girl child, whose future becomes bleaker if this resolution is allowed to stand," he told Anadolu Agency.
The Nigerian Senate had earlier passed by a two-thirds majority Clause 4, Section 29 (4) (a) of the constitution, which states that "for the purposes of subsection (1) of this section (a) 'full age' means 18 years and above," and Section 29 (4) (b), which adds that "any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age."
But Muslim Senator Ahmed Yerima protested that the clause violated the tenets of Islamic Law, as it tacitly criminalizes marriage to girls under 18, arguing that parliament lacks such power in view of Item 61 under Part 1 of the 2nd Schedule of the Constitution, which bars the National Assembly from legislating on any issue that concerns Islamic or traditional matters.
A second vote, albeit a controversial one, defeated the initial yes vote, which had retained Clause 4, as those pushing for its retention failed to garner the two-thirds vote needed to defeat Yerima's position.
By the same token, the senator successfully convinced his colleagues to retain, rather than delete, Section 29 (4) (b), which says that "any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age."
Geraldine Ezeakile, coordinator of the Nigerian Feminist Forum, dismissed the new amendment as a violation of child rights.
"The Nigerian Feminist Forum is greatly concerned about the senate resolution to alter Section 29 (a) of the constitution, which stipulates that a woman shall not be qualified for marriage until she attains 18 years of age," Ezeakile told AA.
"This action is a clear violation of Article 21 (2) of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which prohibits child marriage and betrothal, as well as Article 6 (b) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which provides that the minimum age of marriage for women is 18 years."
Calling on the senate to review the resolution, Ezeakile insisted that the decision also ran contrary to Section 21 of the Child Rights Act of Nigeria, which forbids the marriage of persons below 18 years and imposes a punishment of N500,000 or a five-year jail term or both.
Many Northern Nigerian states have refused to adopt the Child Rights Act since it became law ten years ago, arguing in part that it conflicts with Islamic Law, especially regarding marital issues.
The campaign against the resolution has grown intense and gone viral on social media, with individuals and groups already collecting signatures to force another vote on the clause.
AAGüncelleme Tarihi: 23 Temmuz 2013, 16:25