The new sexual offences bill passed by the Nigerian Senate set the age of consent for sex at 11 years, when the intention of the bill was actually to punish sexual offences.
The new law punishes those who have sexual relations with children under 11 years with life imprisonment, whilst several prison sentences was set for those who deliberately infect others with HIV, gang rape, lacing the drink of someone with the intention to sexually abuse them; as well as child seks tourism, sexual harassment, and prostitution of persons with mental disabilities.
However, the law says nothing about those who have seks with children above 11 years. In fact, when this law is looked at in conjunction with another law that recognises child brides as adults, the implication is that having amorous relations with a 12 year old is ok under the law. Nigerianwatch.com has a piece on it and the background of one of the law’s backers, a Muslim Senator who has numerous child brides: Ahmed Yerima.
So as long as a girl is 12 years old, and is married off by her family to someone, that person can legally have seks with the girl. The act of marriage legalises someone as an adult, according to the law. It’s a case of religious polygamists passing laws to legalise their nefarious practices of marrying children, and it’s no wonder considering the circumstances under which it was passed.
This law was passed by the last senate, which on their last day in office before the new senate was convened, passed 46 bills in 10 minutes, including this one.
The President is yet to assent it into law, and it remains to be seen what he would do.
On this issue, Nigerian Nobel laureate-Wole Soyinka’s wrote the below open letter, reported by PM News:
“Dear Friends and Comrades,
Regretfully, I am unable to be with you tomorrow morning. However, I extend a warm embrace to you in your resolve to keep within Nigeria’s short memory the events that have been central to the attainment of our democracy – warts and all – enjoyed today by you and me. June 12 remains the true Democracy Day despite the unprincipled efforts of some prime beneficiaries of that struggle to expunge it from a people’s chronicle.
If I had been able to join you, I would most certainly have asked you for help. It has to do with the nation’s latest alleged legislative stance against sexual abuse – molestation, rape, paedophilia etc etc. I am only a layman, not a “learned brother”, so any help from the learned is earnestly solicited. The question on my mind is this: is that legislative reinforcement not merely a case of rubbing vaseline on leprosy?
In this supposedly progressive bill, sponsored by the respected Senator Chris Anyanwu. I could not help but notice a reiteration – as if to ensure that there is no ambiguity – of the word “child”, near superfluously. Well, we understand “child” as defined in most dictionaries. There is however also child as defined by the Nigerian legislature. This definition is contained in a prior Bill, sponsored, no less, by a notorious serial paedophile and cross-border sex trafficker, yet lawmaker – one Ahmed Yerima.
Does Yerima’s Bill, gleefully assented to by his peers, not simply vitiate this latter, supposedly humane concern for the protection of the child? Again, I confess to being only a ‘bloody layman’ in such matters. However, reading both bills, it strikes me that all the new bill does is empower the clique of paedophiles. All you need do is “marry” even a six-year old under any local laws, and do whatever you want with her. Through marriage, she is already an “adult”. Her “defiler” is now fully protected by this law. She is not. The current Bill is the ancient story of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. End of story? Yerimah and his fellow perverts are having the last laugh.
This issue of child protection looms large all over the world – including bills passed or under debate. It is one that defines us in our own estimation and in global view as worthy to be counted among humanity, or as the basest kind of living species that exist solely for their sensual gratification, even at the cost of the emotional and physiological well-being of the weak and vulnerable of society. Our lawmakers have betrayed our children.