Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

Is Forced Child Marriage Birthing New Monsters?

I am shocked to my nerves at the news of young Wasila Umaru who is likely to be charged with culpable homicide for poisoning her husband. Learn more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/04/10/nigeria-child-bride-... In Kano, Nigeria, fourteen year old Wasila Umaru who was unhappy that she was forced to marry her husband of thirty-five years of age, allegedly stated that she purchased rat poison from a village market and used it to prepare a meal of rice for her husband who invited a number of his friends over to celebrate his new marriage. The groom, along with three of his friends who ate the poisoned meal have since died and young Wasila is likely to be charged for culpable homicide.

At this sad news, a million questions flooded my mind all at once; where was everyone's ears (particularly her mother and father) when young Wasila cried out that she did not want to marry the man that she was forced to marry? how heartless was the groom, to be celebrating with his friends and family while this young girl (whom he couldn't have had any meaningful love relationship with) was clearly unhappy and discontented to be his wife? Is it fair that girls voices are constantly tossed to the air and ignored simply because they are young and vulnerable? Is it fair that the girl is constantly the one forced into marriage when there is hunger and lack in the family, should she continue to pay the price for a situation that she is not responsible for?

While thinking through these questions and more, I began to ask myself, Could little Wasila have thought this up all by herself? Was she so bold to carry on such a mission, knowing her husband would die and she would be free from the forced marriage? Did she fully think round her action and the possible consequences? Or was she so desperate that she did not care what the consequences of her action cause her? Could she have possibly thought round her action and felt that it could change the face of forced marriage in her community? Are our little girls beginning to rise up to device new ways to get their voices to count? Is forced child marriage birthing new monsters in Nigeria?

There have been individual and concerted efforts by various activists and organisations calling for an end to forced child marriage in Nigeria, but the subject is often countered by traditional and religious heads/bodies, particularly in Northern Nigeria. The impunity is further fuelled by the fact that no one has ever been prosecuted for marrying a child in Nigeria. The case of Senator Sani Ahmed Yerima, 49, who married a 14 year old Egyptian girl after divorcing a 17 year old girl he married while she was 15 sparked off some protests across the country from 2010. However, he has not been prosecuted and instead mobilized support to defend himself (and even propagate the custom further) using his powers as a lawmaker in the Country's National Assembly. We cannot begin to enumerate the various health and socio-economic hazards that child marriage continues to cause Nigeria's girls and women and the nation at large.

However, I am concerned that this impunity and continued practice of the custom of forced marriage may be birthing a new era of monster girls each devising her way of escape from forced marriage http://pointblanknews.com/pbn/news/saudi-arabia-15-year-old-girl-flees-a... and http://afrocosmopolitan.com/id-rather-kill-myself-11-year-old-yemeni-gir.... In the case of Wasilah Umar, we find an even scarier manifestation of a plot to escape a forced marriage.

While Wasilah's case should call for a serious re-examination of the concept of forced marriage - I fear that the Nigerian Law would go all out to pursue a culpable homicide case against little Wasila and nothing would be done about reviewing the forced marriage and nothing would be done about listening to the girls voices, desires, dreams and pleas.

We need to act fast and save our little girls before they resort to saving themselves whichever way they know how to. Let us join our voices to our girls voices so that we can push to have their voices count. Girls Voices need to count or there would continue to be imbalance and inequality in our society.

Carolyn Seaman
Girls Voices
Abuja-Nigeria

Downloads

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Letters to a Better World

Letters to a Better World

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

DRC: A Dream Come True

DRC: A Dream Come True

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

The Women of World Pulse LIVE: Meet Jampa

The Women of World Pulse LIVE: Meet Jampa

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative