Friday, 26 July 2013

Obiageli Ezekwesili Says Religion Isn't Enough for Underage Marriage

Former Education Minister, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili and the President of Women Arise for Change Initiative, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, were among eminent Nigerians and groups that frowned on the Senate resolution supporting child marriage on Thursday.
Ezekwesili and Okei-Odumakin, who spoke at a seminar in Lagos, noted that religion could not be the only basis for the Senate to legalise the marriage of underage girls.
Their declaration came as the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina, said Nigerian citizenship must remain gender neutral and safeguarded from cultural, religious and social interpretations.
Okei-Odumakin particularly described the Senate resolution as obnoxious, saying it would ruin the future of many Nigerian girls.
She criticised Senator Ahmed Yerima for insisting that the removal of Section 29(4)(b), of the 1999 Constitution was against the laws of Islam.

Okei-Odumakin said, “The truth is this has nothing to do with religion, ethnic group or culture. It has to do with protecting our children and future. We cannot allow religion to divide us.”
Ezekwesili said, “The issue of underage marriage has no religious correlation. It relates to the protection of the girl-child and ensures that she has every opportunity to be at the state of mental, physical, psychological readiness in order to make certain decision inlife.
“Even the Holy Books acknowledge this before marriage. We call on the Senate to delete Section 29 (4) (b) of the 1999 constitution.”
She added, “The Senate should also look into a section in the constitution that does not allow a Nigerian woman to offer citizenship to a foreign husband, and all other related sections. They should be corrected.”
Meanwhile, the Paediatric Association of Nigeria through its President, Prof. Adebiyi Olowu, warned that the action of the lawmakers would increase vesico-vagina fistula, birth asphyxia and low birth weight delivery in the country.
In a statement by Olowu and his Secretary, Dr. Jerome Elusiyan, the association added that the lawmakers’ action was an abuse of child rights.
Calling on the Senate not to promote underage marriage, the association said, “United Nations and several other conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory affirms 18 years as the age of maturity.”
Maina, who called for gender neutralness, also urged the Senate to delete Section 29 (4)(b) of the Constitution in the interest of peace.
She said, “Nigerian women should uphold and emphasise the need to delete this controversial section because it promotes gender inequality and puts underage married girls to be charged under criminal law.
“Indeed, every well-meaning Nigerian citizen should openly support and ensure the removal of this provision which provides that young young Nigerian girls, who are not old enough to vote or obtain a driving licence, are somehow old enough to renounce their citizenship.
“This is at variance with all international conventions and protocols on the rights of the child which Nigeria has ratified, notably the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in which Section 177 defined a child as anyone who is below the age of 16.”

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