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Saturday, 16 January 2016

Child Marriage Still Legal In Pakistan; And Nigeria

Nigeria and Pakistan have a few things in common; they are both among the most corrupt countries in the world with a Corruption Perception Index score of 27 and 29 out of 100 respectively, and they are both members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, OIC, which claims to be the "collective voice of the muslim world." Nigeria has been a member since 1986, smuggled in by General Ibrahim Babangida, amidst feeble protests from various christian groups, who was the military president then.

In 2014, the Council for Islamic Ideology, CII, in Pakistan stopped a bill proposing an end to child marriage, with recommendations for more severe penalties for offenders, because it was "unislamic" and against the tenets of sharia law. The CII has again stymied the same bill for the same reason. The bill calls for the age of marriage to be raised from 16 to 18, but the CII has gone as far as to say that islamic laws do not place an age limit on marriage, and that a girl is ready to marry as soon as she attains puberty, which cannot be defined by age. "Puberty" here in all probability means the start of a girl's periods, which can start as early as 8 or 9.

Of course human rights activists in Pakistan are furious, and the vitriol has been emphatic. If only it was that strong in Nigeria, where a proposed Child's Rights Act has been largely by the 12 northern states, out of 19, which have implemented sharia law. Senator Ahmed Yerima (pictured above) married a 13 year old Egyptian girl after a reported $100,000 dowry was paid to her parents. He of course came under fire for this, but brushed it aside with the shield of his "right to practice his religion as enshrined in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria," and also with the excuse that the child's rights act contains certain recommendations that are against the teachings of islam.

Marriages to prepubescent female children by men almost always old enough to be their fathers, and, in Mr Yerima's case, grandfathers, is a leading cause of the stigmatic vesico-vaginal fistula, VVF, cases seen in northern Nigeria. The young girls afflicted with this debilitating condition are usually divorced by their husbands and abandoned by family and friends to face a life of depression, destitution, and loneliness; and the federal government has been powerless to do anything about it because it would draw the ire of prominent muslim bigots who choose to ignore this problem in the name of promoting sharia law.

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