Home » Human Rights » Child Marriages and Hidden Truths in Thenigerian Case of Wasilat Tasi’u [opinion]

“In a country where the death sentence can be legally imposed, judge Wasilat Tasi’u has finally imposed the harshest sentence in the land. Nigerian rapist Umar Sani who raped a child under the pretext of marrying her at the age of 14 has been convicted and sentenced to death. In delivering judgement, Justice Wasilat stated that the crime of rape is inhuman and degrading and that the highest sentence in the land must be imposed. The judge noted that the 14 year-old girl was not a victim of ‘child marriage’ but a victim of continuous rape. She condemned the term ‘child marriage’ and reminded society that such actions constitute rape and must be reported.

“Judge Wasilat noted that society has, disturbingly, forgotten its role as the custodian of all morals. She noted that, in a morally upright nation, children are given the opportunity to grow up to maturity before they are burdened with the responsibilities of marriage. She also noted that besides mental maturity, at the age of 14, a child is not physically mature and cannot shoulder the burden of being a wife. The judge further noted the role of the police as custodians of the law. She reminded the police of their role to enforce the law and urged them to arrest people who rape children and ‘marry’ them. She particularly urged society to report cases involving the rape of children in the pretext of ‘marriage’.

“Judge Wasilat noted the vulnerable position of children and urged the nation to realise that, if adults fail to protect them, children would take the law into their own hands and devise methods to protect themselves. In aggravation, the judge stated that 35 year-old Umar had, at his disposal so many mature, single and beautiful women in Nigeria and the world that he could marry but he chose to commit a child to childhood of rape. She further condemned the actions of the girl’s family who gave her into marriage and expressed discontent over the fact that no member of the Nigerian community stopped the ‘marriage’ which became legalised abuse of the child. The judge found no mitigating factors to warrant a lesser punishment.

“A commentator from a rights group welcomed the judgement as being progressive and stated that harsh penalties may be the only way to topple the crime of rape. He however, noted that whilst the death sentence is a punishment that can be legally imposed in Nigeria, it does not serve the interests of justice for a person to die and not face the wrath of the law. He further implored the Nigerian community to realise that by imposing and carrying out the death sentence, children are led to believe that the ultimate punishment for a crime is death, yet the killing of one by another must never be encouraged. He therefore urged Nigeria to consider the ultimate penalty of a life sentence in order to teach children that those who breach the law should not necessarily die but must be alive to face the wrath of the law.

“Analysts however, stated that the death sentence was however appropriate in the case of Umar because it is legally sanctioned by the law. The judgment, which is the loudest cry from a raped child and screams against ‘child marriages’, has gone viral and is being discussed on all social media platforms. The judgment has broken internet records after Kim Kardashian’s nude pictures. We can safely say the judgment, which can be called ‘break the rape, break the child marriage or break the internet’, has also broken twitter,” this is Chinedu reporting for Nigerian News.

I have just woken up from my dream. In my dream last night Umar Sani was criminally charged for marrying a child and Judge Wasilat convicted and sentenced him to a death. In my dreams Umar Sani’s sentence of death was carried out and he was buried for his crimes. Around Umar’s grave we marvelled at the wrath of the law. To us justice had been served. It was a step forward for all of us child rights activists and a cause to celebrate for all those who respect national and international laws which state that children should not be married.

Now, back to reality it is 6.30 am as I read the news and have just woken up to reality. Wasilat is actually the 14 year-old girl who is, in reality, accused of murder in Nigeria and, if found guilty, maybe sentenced to death. His rapist Umar Sani lies peacefully in his grave and the law has just termed him ‘the complainant’. Wasilati is now ‘the accused’. I fail to understand the analogy of the law. The perpetual victimisation of victims and the crocked beliefs, lies, fabrication and misinformation making the world believe that victims are perpetrators and perpetrators are victims.

On hearing that a 14 year-old Nigerian girl had allegedly laced with poison the food of the rapist 35 year-old Umar Sani two weeks after their ‘wedding’, I was not sympathetic. If Nigerian adults witnessed the wedding of a child and did nothing if the police of Nigeria witnessed the law being abused with the intention to rape a child and did nothing, and if the government of Nigeria allowed a ‘wedding’ of a 14 year-old to take place and did nothing then Wasilat presided over her rape case and she found the rapist Umar guilty of murder. If the facts reported are true, then Wasilat must be regarded to have judged her case and left no room for appeal. With the society turning a blind eye and pretending as though it is fine to marry children, Wasilat had one option but to try her case and pass judgment. She found in favour of herself, the victim. To her, the accused Umar deserved a death sentence for formalising rape and making it legal.

Why should anyone pretend to feel sorry for Umar Sani? For a long time we have said marrying a child is rape. We asked for the harshest sentences for adults who marry children or give them into marriage but the courts did not even impose life sentences. We appealed and appeled for the harshest sentences but we were told that children love to be married and our views and concerns were thrown to the dust bin. We were told that the accused had presented facts which mitigated their rape sentences and a penalty of life imprisonment was never seen fit.

Now, a 14 year-old girl has set a judicial precedence the crime of raping a child whilst pretending to be ‘marrying a child’ faces a death sentence. She has made it clear. No matter how much a child smiles in the pictures of her own wedding, children do not love to get married children do not love rich man. Children love the playground. In the playground, children use any recipe to cook. They cook with any herb and they do not eat what they cook.

One man decided that a child will be a wife and when she cooked he died. He ate what was not supposed to eaten because he gave the pot to the child. A child with no mental capacity to determine wrong and right. The man has no one to blame. If the allegations are true that more adults died after eating the food allegedly laced with poison by Wasilat then their death sentences can be explained. They watched as Wasilat was being raped and regarded her as Umar Sani’s wife, their cook. A wife and cook with no mental capacity to determine wrong and right? Even they put their lives at risk. Who shall they blame?

Justice was denied and the victim fought for justice. Wasilat, who is currently facing murder charges in Nigeria, should never go to jail she has already sent Umar to jail for the crime he committed. Everybody should be in Wasilat’s corner and upholding her judgment for the following reasons:

Umari raped her and everybody condoned it:

When marrying a 14 year-old, it should have been clear to Umar and the whole Nigerian society that a child was being married and that a crime of rape was being committed. Marriage in Africa is a long process of negotiations and it cannot be argued that all involved in the marriage missed the point that Wasilat was a child or that the law does not allow children to be married. No member of the Nigerian society protected Wasilat, especially because media reports point to the fact that she was against the ‘marriage’. Umar thought he would get away with it, but alas!

If there is no justice for children we risk them taking the law into their own hands:

I have heard statements such as ‘children want to be married’. I have seen rapists walk free after alleging that a child agreed to a sexual act. Some laws of countries licence marriages below the age of 18 and some acknowledge that children below the age of 18 can agree to a sexual acts with adults. Even when the laws impose harsh penalties for sexual acts with minors or, in the rare cases, regard ‘child marriages’ as rape, the police watch as weddings of children take place and the judges do not impose extremely harsh sentences when children complain. Children’s complaints are often received with suspicion and not taken seriously. In the face of injustice which was allegedly even perpetrated by her own parents, Wasilat only had the option of taking the law into her own hands and deliver justice.

Wasilat knows the size of the shoe and where it hurts:

Whilst we may all hypothetically talk about the causes and effects of ‘child marriage’ or argue that ‘child marriage’ is rape, Wasilat has practically experienced the pain. Having helplessly watched adults giving her to a 35 year old rapist and having gone through the trauma of marrying a rapist and, consequently, being his wife, she must have been scared and looking for all possible ways to run away. One needs to have faced a lifetime of rape for them to judge her mental state at the time the crime was committed (if it was committed).

Adults exhibit cruelty and selfishness that is unforgivable:

The cruelty and selfishness of adults is unforgivable. The international community has already agreed that children cannot be married below the age of 18. Programs have been put in place to explain why children cannot agree to any activities that involve sex below the age of 18. National laws have been enacted which state that children have no capacity to contract to a marriage. The problem is that adults are cruel. They marry children, give children into marriage and witness such marriages for their own self-gratification. If adults are cruel and self-gratifying and forget their role to protect children and to act in their best interests then why spare them from the harshest sentence?

The proof without the reason to doubt:

The crime committed by Umar was graced by a wedding. It was committed in front of witnesses and no other proof is needed to secure a conviction. Umar has received the harsh sentences he deserves and Wasilat should never be convicted of any crime.

Wasilat like any victim of rape deserves protection from the Nigerian government and her future should never be riddled by a criminal conviction. She does not deserve to be tried for any crime. She never had the intention to commit a crime and the state has no case against her, even that of culpable homicide.

(In this article I fight to see Wasilat exonerated of all murder charges. I represent my personal views. I do not represent the views of any organisation.)

Source : New Zimbabwe