Nigeria: Women Activists Kick Against Senate's Resolution On Child Marriage

The Gender and Constitution Reform Network, GECORN, a coalition of women’s rights organisations across Nigeria, on Thursday rejected the Senate’s resolution on child marriage.

The organisation, in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, and made available to journalists in Abeokuta , rejected the argument of Ahmed Yerima that the proposal for the deletion of section 29 (4)(b) which states that “any woman who is married shall be deemed of full age” is at variance with Islamic law.

“The constitution of Nigeria is the supreme law of the country. While we hail the constitution review process led by the Senate and the House of Representatives, we reject the argument of Senator Ahmed Yerima that the proposal for the deletion of section 29 (4) (b) which states that “any woman who is married shall be deemed of full age.”

The women activists emphasised that section 29 of the 1999 Constitution particularly prescribed the procedures for Nigerians who wish to renounce their citizenship.

“29 (4)a, defines the character of a Nigerian who is capable of denouncing citizenship and clearly states that such person must be of full age – 18 years and above, which is in line with the Child Rights Act 2003. ‘Our argument is that S 29 4(b contradicts, S 29 4(a) and can cause misrepresentation in law and practice.

“We ask, is the Senate saying that a 13-year-old girl has the mental capacity to renounce her citizenship? Thus, we argue that Senator Ahmed Yerima, basing his argument solely on child marriage is treacherous and a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the intention of the 1999 constitution.

“Such misrepresentation is in our own view, what the Senate originally wanted to avoid by the (Senate Committee on the Constitution Reform’s report) proposal and its initial votes for the deletion of S 29 4(b).”

The organisation noted that failure to delete 29 4(b) has several negative implications: (1) criminal liability can be placed on under age married girl child. (2) An underage married woman can vote and be voted for (3) She can also obtain a driver’s license, (4) Legitimizing child marriage ‘as evidenced by the past conduct of Senator Ahmed Yerima years back.’

“We therefore urge the Senate to reconsider its position and call on the House of Representative to show progressive leadership by failing to concur on this provision and others that might retard the progress of this country,” the organisation stated.

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