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What is the Fate of Nigerian Child Bride who Killed her Husband?

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Wasila Bella Naija

Last month, BN reported the case of 14-year-old Wasila Umaru, a child bride who killed her husband because she did not love him and was forced to marry him. She was then charged with  “culpable homicide after giving a confession.

Many of our readers expressed outrage at this story, questioning why her age and rationale for committing the crime didn’t prevent her from being charged.

Someone may have an answer to this question: Bolaji Owasanoye, Executive Director of Human Development Initiatives, and member, Lagos State Child Rights Implementation Committee. 

Owasanoye explains that under Sharia law, which is applicable in Kano, where the crime was committed, the age of criminal responsibility is set at puberty. Because Umaru was married off when she had already began to undergo puberty at age 14, she is likely to be made criminally responsible for her crime.

“Under the Sharia regime, sanctions and punishments applicable to adults apply to children because no distinction is made for children.

Thus, whatever punishment is reserved by Sharia law for murder will be applied to Wasila and this is likely to be capital punishment unless there is a robust defence with a strategy to appeal the inevitable outcome of sentence to death at the Sharia court.

Wasila was 14years  at the time she committed the crime. Is it not possible to try her under a separate child justice system?

Under the Child Rights Convention domesticated at  the federal level and by 24 states in Nigeria, Wasila would be handled under a separate child justice system that takes account of her age and the circumstances of her forced marriage to a man twice her age.

Unfortunately, Kano, being one of the 12 states of the federation yet to pass the Child Rights Law and operating the Sharia legal system, Wasila has no protection under the child rights regime” he said.

We really do hope someone is able to help change the capital punishment verdict. It would be truly heartbreaking if this sentence is carried out.

17 Comments

  1. Miss Independent

    May 26, 2014 at 6:16 am

    I dont understand, does every state have their own law? She is just a Child, isn’t there ANYONE who can help her? This is called Child abuse in my country.

  2. Djsamlegxy

    May 26, 2014 at 6:41 am

    This is really sad, when will this people grow up?
    Marrying a 14year old girl, I think he deserve more than that, and i pray they release the girl.

    • Naija Realist

      May 26, 2014 at 9:32 am

      What exactly do you mean by “he deserve (sic) more than that”?

      While I am personally against child marriage, and obviously feel sorry for the poor girl’s circumstances, NOBODY deserves death for following the norms of the society in which they live in. What those of us who disagree with these norms should do is to work assidiously to change it.

      Nevertheless, for your edification, the AGE OF CONSENT in most so-called “civilized” countries range from 13-16. The age of consent in Spain is/was 13 and that of marriage is/was 14 (there were moves last year to raise both to 16, though I don’t know if it passed). In Belgium, there was a vote just this month (May 2014) to LOWER the age of consent from 16 to 13. Even in the US, minors under 15 or 16 (the latter being the age of marriage in several US states) can get married with parental or judicial consent. Furthermore, the age of CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY is 13 in France and 10 in England and Wales. So, if we really feel sad for this girl and those similarly-placed, we should put our considerable energies into making CHANGING our societies!

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      May 26, 2014 at 10:53 am

      I’m aligned with your view that he shouldn’t have been killed but we definitely need to continue castigating these norms that are arbitrarily weighted against women and children, restricting their most basic rights to life.

      And regarding your clarification about the ages of consent, the fundamental element there is consent. Those 14, 15 or 16 year olds would have first consented to being married off before having their marriages legally recognized. With regard to criminal responsibility, notwithstanding that it’s set at 10years of age in the United Kingdom, there are still special procedures for arraigning and prosecuting young offenders so that the judicial process takes their age and mental maturity into account and they have to be remanded in a separate kind of custodial centre with the purpose of rehabilitating and counselling them. I highly doubt we’ll be seeing the same treatment being made available here if Sharia law is applied in the fullest measure. Can’t remember the last time I heard of capital punishment being applied to a child in any country, either.

      How do you push for change if the larger body of people who the laws are applied to don’t seem to want that change themselves?

  3. shadykiks

    May 26, 2014 at 8:03 am

    It saddens my heart when I hear stories like this. What is this country turning into? May God intervene and set you free dear child.

  4. Anonymous

    May 26, 2014 at 8:51 am

    I just wanted to add that culpable homicide is slightly different from murder and may not attract capital punishment, nonetheless this little girl does not deserve to be charged with such a crime.

  5. truth

    May 26, 2014 at 9:01 am

    what a sad news. i wonder d type of law being practised in the Northern part of Nigeria. sharia dis, sharia dat, ah… can’t dis child be taken to a reformatory home for crying out loud if dey really want justice? what happened to juvenia delequency, i mean young ones who break d law. May God help us .

  6. Dr. N

    May 26, 2014 at 9:11 am

    I pray she doesn’t but even if she dies, she would be a matyr. Soon, dt culture will be challenged n reversed by d younger generation. Those old goats who like young girls, beware of rat poison, ota pia pia. drnsmusings.wordpress.com

  7. missy J

    May 26, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Am sorry but where is Mama peace, Oby and all others in matters like this? Waje and co this is where your voice is also needed.

  8. Bella

    May 26, 2014 at 9:40 am

    This is the height of absurdity I have ever seen. Firstly the man should have been jailed for marrying a 14 year old CHILD. Secondly he deserved worse than this poor child killing him. We have to stop this mindset, KIDS do not make wives? I am disgusted and appalled. they should let this child go and give her counselling, we cannot let this matter pass, we should expose her plight as much as we have with the #BBOG. Nigeria what kind of wickedness is this to our future leaders, our children? we seriously need God to help us o.

    • Tess

      May 26, 2014 at 11:07 am

      I understand your angry outburst, but you have to understand it THEIR culture and respect it. The only people who can change this archaic tradition are educated and enlightened Northerners, not outsiders. What makes it a thorny issue is because these traditions are seen from a religious perspective. When Sen. Yerima was condemned for marrying a child, he justified his actions by using the Quran. He vowed to rather obey the teachings contained there, than obey the constitution/laws of Nigeria.

      I really hope something can be done by the enlightened Muslims to help their brothers and sisters in the North. I wonder why the Yoruba Muslims do not act the same way though.

    • Naija Realist

      May 26, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      But culture is NOT static…

  9. mimi

    May 26, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I’m one of the few who actually supported what this girl did. This is the only way this obnoxious and criminal practise of child marriage can be stopped. I believe the international community won’t allow this girl to be murdered.

  10. Naija Realist

    May 26, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    @MzSociallyAwkward…May 26, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    I am glad that we are on the same philosphical wavelength, although some men that I know who have been in custody cases would likely beg to differ that societal norms “are arbitrarily weighted against women.” Nonetheless, while I reiterate that we should redouble our efforts towards effecting the societal changes that we desire (as someone noted “WE are the Change we want!”) on a whole roster of issues (from “marriages” like these to the modern-day slavery of houshelps), it must be noted however that this poor girl actually allegedly (innocent until proven otherwise) kileed FOUR persons, including 3 apparently ‘innocent’ house guests. Under those UK “special procedures” that you refer to, that would an aggravating (rather than mitigating) factor.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      May 26, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      The norms I was referring are specific to the subject of Sharia Law. Your reference to custody battles doesn’t fit into that landscape at all.

      And the special procedures that you’ve helpfully pointed out in my comment above, tend to apply to most criminal trials involving juveniles. I’m aware that exceptions to the rule exist in cases where the child commits crimes of a violent nature but it is rare for the Crown to successfully convince the courts that a minor should be tried as an adult.

      You are correct, she killed 3 other people and that’s going to ignite her case for the prosecution, unfortunately. I hope the court is satisfied with proof of oblique intention beyond reasonable doubt, before making a ruling on those deaths. At the end of the day, she’ll need a really good lawyer.

  11. @edDREAMZ

    May 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Three yrs jail tym is ok….
    .
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

  12. Lesley Agams

    May 26, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Wasila is in a child remand home. She is being charged to juvenile court FIRST then her case may be transferred to the High Court. Her lawyer is Hussaina Aliyu a member of FIDA Kano. If the writer had done a bit more investigation he/she would have found out and called her to ask about Wasila’s defence (which is much more sophisticated than portrayed here) and engage Nigerians constructively in helping the young girl instead of inflaming outrage with this speculative opinion piece. But I guess this is a blog not journalism.

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