8th of October, 2017, Owerri, Imo State of Nigeria. I watched in dismay as a mother cussed her daughter out. She just wouldn’t stop at that, she unsolicitedly went on to point how daft and stupid and appalling her daughter was for failing to eat the cassava flour and soup available for breakfast that morning. An act of the child that was probably attributable to an unwilling appetite.
I engaged every will power within to stay uninvolved, hindsight had thought me not to stand up to such insanity spontaneously, the essence is always lost on the offender. This mother was doing beyond what all the years of deprivation of the Nigerian girl child has occasioned the girl child. She was psychologically reducing her daughter to that state of inferiority and worthlessness that convinces the girl child that she holds no worth in the society as a girl and thus susceptible to the narratives of the society, taking the advocacy of the Nigerian girl child several years back from whence we began the movement
Very unfortunately, the Nigerian society fails to recognize that sexual abuse, amongst others, is not the only violation of the rights of the girl child under the Child’s Right Act. The society is veiled to the provisions of Section 11 of the Childs Right Act, 2003.
The section provides expressly;
- Every child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly, no child shall be—
(a) subjected to physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or maltreatment, including sexual abuse; or
(b) subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or
(c) subjected to attacks upon his honor or reputation; or
(d) held in slavery or servitude, while in the care of a parent, legal guardian or school authority or
any other person or authority having the care of the child.
The provisions of the above section is concise and distill. I have taken the liberty to emphasis the section for clarity of purpose.
Daily and abysmally, we live a Nigerian society where Section 11 of the Childs Right Act is contravened and the onlooker society applaud the offenders and hold them in esteem for putting the girl child in check, for reminding her she is ‘mere’ and undeserving, for instilling the second class instincts in her and teaching her to belong to the ‘invisible’ and be grateful to be awarded invisible.
Our battle is not necessarily against the male vices that orchestrate these patriarchal ideals, the worry is the Women that promote and sit at the steering of these wheels. The Nigerian society often okays the woman to derive completion in subjecting the girl child to undignifying psychological and emotional abuse. The woman is patted on the back for subscribing to the male dominated societal expectation and she glories in her perceived approval and lobbies to maintain her earned approval.
These perversion transcends beyond the contemporary, it is the Nigerian Woman being a product of culture. Her ancestors had begun the cycle, she is only a 90 degrees to complete the 360 degrees and hopes that her abused daughters grow up to be another 90 degrees completing the circle.
The more devastating worry is the discrepancy in the Child’s Right Act. Section 11 was not particularly criminalized, leaving both the punishment for the offence and the offender at the discretion of the courts. This discrepancy trivializes the import of this section and makes light of the intentions of the legislation. It leaves the Nigerian society just where it had been before the enactment of this Act, only few steps ahead.
We cannot however excuse the inexcusability of a cancenrous tumour on the discrepancy of the Act, that will tantamount to passivity in advocacy. We cannot convince ourselves that these malaise is insurmountable, of course not. Our solution lies in reorienting the Nigerian Woman!
She needs to know, that she is cranky today because she was broken as a girl child. She should be informed that she can only successfully fight for her rights when she secures the rights if the girl child who will and shall grow into her tomorrow.
The future of the Nigerian Woman is the Nigerian girl child, it is the broken girl child who has been told she is daft and stupid and worthless because she came to the world clothed in feminity.
It is not the responsibility if the government to protect and fight for our future, nor does the society hold us any obligation to advocate for the rights of our future. It is our duty as women, as Nigerian women to SHOW THEM HOW. It behooves on us to demand that Section 11 of the Child’s Right Act be criminalized. It is our place to ensure the prosecution of offenders to the section and obtain justice fir the Nigerian girl child. It is the duty of the Nigerian Woman to secure her future; the Nigerian girl child.
We must remember that the girl child is plagued with a plethora of challenges and lives in fear of violence almost from conception. We owe her a duty to ensure she grows into an uninitimidated, unbroken and whole woman, an ideal Nigerian woman.
As we commemorate the International Girl Child day today, we advocate for the rights of the girl child, the Nigerian girl child and we reiterate the reality that a psychologically whole Nigerian girl child is a psychologically whole Nigerian Woman’s tomorrow.
Happy International Girl Child, Day.
Ihuoma Chidire Anuonye
Alliances for Africa.