Tuesday, July 30, 2013

35 Nigerian Senators, Yerima and Section 29:4b - Lawbreakers Not Lawmakers

'I live in a city where young girls at the age of 12 have already became serial fornicators and cannot count the number of men they were intimate with. I live in a city where school children disvirgin themselves behind toilets on valentine’s day. I live in a city where young girls flood the street at night looking for men that would give them N500 to be intimate with them. I live in city where parents send their daughters out overseas to prostitute and send dollars down. I live in a city where government officials pick undergraduates from university car parks with coastal buses to wild sex parties. I live in a city where abortion is so common that even a chemist shop owner can perform abortion with just N2500.
These are your daughters, and this should worry you not Yerima's private matters. So ask me again why I support early child marriage and I will slap the Jinn out of you' - Senator Yerima.

I am hoping that this statement did not actually come out from the lips of Yerima. Cause that juicy sentence about ‘I live in a city where government officials pick undergraduates from university car parks with coastal buses to wild sex parties’ deserves further investigation. Don’t you agree? Who are these government officials? Is it that he knows of this abuse of government property and finance and says nothing about it? Is it that he knows about the amoral conduct of his fellow government officials and did not call them to order rather waited till this opportune moment when he can fling it in our faces with scorn?
Wait, he also lives in a society where 12 year olds are being sexually abused and he a lawmaker looks and walks away because it is okay?!!
Tell me again why our tax money is paying this man’s salaries???!!!

But let me not digress from the focus of my post.

I have been following the #ChildnotBride protests with interest. My emotions have ranged from ‘Our Senators have gone mad again type dismay’,

To logic ‘but Section 29, sub section 4b. (wonderful, I can now quote a subsection of our law!!) isn’t about childbrides is it? Yes, I can see how easy it is to extrapolate the loophole in this law to more dangerous even political ramifications. If marriage now confers adult reasoning on a girlbride, reasoning enough to make decisions as heavy as renouncing her citizenship, maybe In 2015, a husband can arguably present his underage wife to vote afterall, as  she is of ‘full age’ to marry, she is old enough to determine her future leader.

3 things finally set me off:

First, the unnecessary and divisive argument that this is a propaganda against the North by Southern Nigeria.
Do you think it is? I don’t think so.
The Northern situation is a cause for concern for any right-thinking Nigerian. And its amazing that everyone else can see it except the people involved. Yerima and his co defenders might call the West and South ‘hypocrites’ for not removing the logs of premarital sex, prostitution, abortion in their eyes before poking at his. But they might ask themselves which zone has the highest burden of underage girls sentenced to a life of VVF, little or no access to medical care without permission of their male lord and masters, under-achieveing girls in education (the recent cut off marks for federal common entrance is a well known fact), girls who have been told their only value in life is as a bride .

I saw this comment by a Kendra on diarybyemmy.com and it broke my heart
“As for d senate, I come from d north and Emmy dis story is deeper than d passing of dis bill or act or whatever. Small girls of between 4-9 yrs old pass in front of my house when returning from Islamiyya classes and all this children talk about is marriage, their husband’s houses, when they get married how they will cook, their fine fine marriage clothes etc. I live among PROFESSORS! Yes Professors! And these VERY EDUCATED MEN have married brides fresh off primary school. And as Islam permits four wives, they marry these girls when they r really young, suck out their youth and divorce them in time to make space for a new one. Most of them r divorced as teens or in their 20s.Right under my eyes my neighbour’s daughter was eating herself FAT so dat Alhaji will consider her unattractive and take back his marriage proposal but seeing that her mum has 8 kids from an Alhaji who is too old to take care of his children (you see d future of this trend?), d poor girl had to go. And this man is a top official in a FEDERAL university. He had just cleared up all his wives for this new blood. And when he divorces her, she will be referred to as “Bazaura” which is a derogatory term for female divorces in d north, most of which r absorbed into other men’s harems or used by men for extra marital sex. I live in a dirty society that uses religion to mask its sins. My poor north. It is well”… - See more at: http://diarybyemmy.com/losers-week-part-2/#comments

That is the legacy of the north to their young girls. And yet Yerima and Co do not see anything wrong in that?

Secondly, this opinion post on YNaija by a Habeeb Kolade who expunged all the English words in his vocabulary with this pompus statement: ‘The Child Not Bride campaign was uncalled for and insightfully a representation of our collective ignorance of the law binding the Nigerian society and also our unwillingness to seek proper knowledge when approached with these kinds of situations especially when our sense of reasoning had been murdered by sentiments’.
Guy, you are the one who has not done your homework.

Thirdly, the fact that it was Senator Yerima that raised the point in the senate meeting. If Senator Yerima a known child marriage practice, who isn’t a lawyer, and who I cant vouchsafe his educational status could foresee where/how this law could clash with entrenched Islamic practices then shouldn’t we all be wary? Can a fox advise a farmer how to protect his chickens?

There should never be ambiguity in the law.  Section 4b is an ambiguous statement which should not exist in our law books.  Laws are there to illuminate. To provide clarification.

(b) any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age is an ambiguous statement which begs the question ‘what is the marriageable age for women in Nigeria’?

Marriageable age or marriage age is the age at which a person is allowed by law to marry, either as a right or subject to parental or other forms of consent. And guess what? Nigeria’s marriageable age is 18.

Backed by 2 beautiful documents,
First The Nigerian Child right act 2003. There it is clearly stated that,

21. No person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage, and accordingly, a marriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
22.—(1) No parent, guardian or any other person shall betroth a child to any person.
          (2) A betrothal in contravention of Subsection (1) of this section is null and void.
23. A person—
(a) who marries a child; or
(b) to whom a child is betrothed; or
(c) who promotes the marriage of a child; or
(d) who betroths a child commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of x500,000 (five hundred thousand Naira) or imprisonment for a term of five years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

The protocol was adopted by the African Union on 11 July 2003 at its second summit in Maputo, Mozambique.  Of the 53 member countries in the African Union, the heads of states of 46 countries (including my dear Nigeria) signed the protocol, and as of July 2010, 28 of those countries had ratified and deposited the protocol (Nigeria included) meaning it is now an enforceable law.
Article 6 which is on Marriage states that
a) no marriage shall take place without the free and full  consent of both parties;
b) the minimum age of marriage for women shall be 18 years;

Clearly, that ambiguous statement in section 29b should be DELETED like yesterday, because it goes against Nigerian Laws.
As for Sen. Yerima who cited religious practices as an excuse, I have neither seen any clause which says that Sharia law is allowed to prevail OVER the law of the Land nor did I see any addendum which allows marriage at a slightly younger age with parental or judicial approval like it happens in some other countries (marriage at minimum 15 years with parents/judicial approval).

Moreover Sir, your dishonorable self should have been impeached like yesterday based on contravention of Section 23A, C and D - Marriage to a 13yr old, boasting that you can give out your 6 yr old daughter in marriage if you wish , and the entire dishonorable rant above.

Lastly, Senator Yerima/Co might also pay heed to this wise woman, Judge Maryam Uwais and stop quoting the Holy Quran to suit their purposes.
It is certainly not mandatory in Islam that girls must be married off as minors, so to keep insisting that this practice must remain sacrosanct, given the background of needs in Northern Nigeria, is incongruous, even under the Shari’a. Where a practice is determined to be merely permissible and not mandatory, it is considered practicable and entirely feasible within Islamic jurisprudence, to discourage or prohibit it, where it is found to be so harmful to individuals and to the community”. VanguardNews

The President, Senators, Governors, House of Assembly, Nigerian bar Association, Civil right activists, fellow Nigerians, this is simple really. We are not asking for anything new. It is already in our laws. Dear Lawmakers your job is to enforce it. Section 29, subsection 4b goes against The Child Right Act 2003 and The Maputo Protocol. Kindly Delete it. That’s all.

I think it is tragic and shameful that our lawmakers neither know the law nor can be entrusted to uphold it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Chimmy, You Can Call Me One of Your Girls Anytime

An excerpt from Chimmy’s recent interview

AB: I would love to ask you about the Caine Prize. I find it interesting that so many Nigerians are on the shortlist this year - That its four Nigerians out of five
Chimmy: Umm, why is that a problem? Watch it
AB: Well, none of them are you!
Chimmy: Elnathan was one of my boys in my workshop. But what’s all this over-privileging of the Caine prize anyway?? I don’t want to talk about the Caine Prize really. I suppose it’s a good thing, but for me, its not he arbiter of the best fiction in Africa. It’s never been. I know that Chinelo is on the short list too. But I haven’t read the stories – I’m just not very interested. I don’t go to the Caine Prize to look for the best in African fiction. 

AB: where do you go?
Chimmy: I go to my mailbox where my workshop people send me their stories. I could give you a list of ten – mostly in Nigeria – writers who I think are very good. They’re not on the Caine prize short list.
Elnathan John: *sigh* I agree. The best Nigerian writing is in Queen Adichie’s mailbox. What a treasure chest.
And of course this sparked off commentaries on Adichie in response to Elnathan John’s status update which ranged from ‘she’s jealous to conceit to too much pride to she’s bitter cause of the failure of Americanah”(raised eyebrows).
You know as best friend Chimmy can do no wrong in my eyes mostly, but this time, I will that I have reservations..
Elnathan has not shown much love for Chimmy judging from his commentaries during the Americanah controversy which indirectly referred to 'her arrogance' etc. So I can appreciate his acute displeasure at her *my boys* reference. Chimmy love, how can you call oke okpa di ka Elnathan ‘nwata nwoke
Mba nu. I choro okwu nwanne m***.

Update*** On second thoughts, after reading this recent post from Elnathan clarifying their prior personal relationship maybe I can understand why. In the wake of the natural hair/Americanah discussions, Elnathan made scathing posts about Chimmy, someone I now find he has/had a personal relationship with. Not cool. Yes, friends can have a difference of opinion but Elnathan allowed his fans make hurtful personal remarks about Chimmy on his Fb page. To be honest my perception was that he did not care for her or her writing. And now he wants her to give him privileged treatment? Shrug. Source for the goose…..

“What’s all this over-privileging of the Caine prize anyway?” 
It is an interesting commentary for one who rose to fame on the wings of a literary prize. She of all people should know the value of any award. Yes she congratulated the winners but by making those scathing remarks about the perceived talent of the prize winners compared to those in her mail box, she literally showed that her congratulations were not worth the paper they were printed on.
I’m not challenging the excellence of these writers she knows, but it was an insensitive speech to make at this point in time. With awards still fresh, this is the time to give credit to whom it is due: To congratulate winners and encourage greater participation: To make relevant critiques about the way the award is run if it marginalizes certain writers or nations or encourages certain stories from Africa (read her article here).
The alleged excellent writers in your mailbox did not send in their stories for the competition by dint of opportunity, time or maybe through some unmet criteria submitted but were not shortlisted. But these winners did. Again, it might just be ladyluck, opportunity, or just pure hardwork but that shouldn’t stop me from appreciating the feat of winners who knocked down hundreds if not thousands of others in a competition. It is only right that they be unreservedly congratulated. And in a future interview, or in an opinion piece, talk about ‘your mailbox of yet to be discovered writers’.

On a positive bit, about having a treasure trove of good writers in her mailbox…She is not wrong you know. My easiest comparisons are beauty contests. Is Miss Nigeria/Miss Universe/Miss World the most beautiful woman in the world? No. Can I similarly boast, that I have a bevy of beauties in my corner street in Gbagada who can give the winners a run from their crowns? Yes and I probably wouldn’t be wrong.
But like I have said. Wrong time. Wrong fight.

Bestie, your recent interviews have spiked a lot of controversy which though important (it is always good to shake up ideas) do not reflect well on you. There’s no gain in making statements that stand to be misconstrued then you now have to give a 2nd interview to correct wrong first perceptions.
The Nigerian audience is a tough one - they have large egos and tend to take things at surface value – but they are your biggest support Adanne. 
Be the mistress of your words and get it right the first time so I won’t have to be doing unpaid PR work :).

On a last note, you can call me one of your girls anytime :)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Of Masectomies and Breast Cancer

So I’ve been reading up a bit about breast cancer, especially after Angelina Jolie’s dramatic double mastectomy. I remembered the discussions my Medical Anthropology group had during my Masters about women who decide to have a preventive mastectomy and why they choose to do it, cause the truth is mastectomy is not the first medical option for a woman at risk of breast cancer.
I am not knocking Angela Jolie’s choice and that of women like her, it is a difficult and emotionally draining choice to make. Talk of the physical pain of surgery.  But, I also hope that women who are told that they are at risk of BRCA following screening do not all jump onto the painful bandwagon of mastectomy.

First line actions include:
  • Active monitoring – the person receives annual screening, mammographs or MRI scans to monitor breast tissue.
  • Changes in lifestyle are encouraged to reduce individual risk – Stop smoking, maintain a healthy weight, healthy diet, reduce if not stop drinking alcohol, exercise, sun protection and ehh breastfeeding (nature has a way of getting its revenge).
  • Radiotherapy or chemotherapy whose cure rates are high and continue to improve.
  • Removal of affected breast tissues (lumpectomy).
I will reiterate…that genes/gene testing is not the be-all and end-all in the fight against cancer or most other diseases. They are just only one piece of the complex puzzle.

Every woman has breast cancer genes BRCA1, BRCA2, TP53, PTEN. The risk of it becoming a cancer occurs if a mutation develops in one of the genes.

About 1 in 500 women have a high risk mutation of the genes associated with breast cancer. However having this high risk mutation does not mean that a woman will develop BRCA. A bit like Russian roulette innit?
Breast cancer screening programmes do not predict individual outcome/prognosis of a person found to have breast cancer. In some cases the cancerous cells can spread rapidly posing a significant risk to health. In others the cancerous cells are much less aggressive so the cancer has no impact on life expectancy. A bit like Russian roulette isn’t it?
This uncertainty leads to what researchers call Overdiagnosis – where women who are diagnosed as having breast cancer following screening, are given treatment and exposed to all its attendant harm (radiotherapy etc) only to subsequently have cancers that would never have caused symptoms in their lifetime.
Check this out
Based on evidence available, for every 100,000 women invited to screening from age 50 for 20yrs
681 breast cancers will be diagnosed
129 of these diagnoses will be Overdiagnosed
43 deaths from breast cancer averted.
So for every one death, there are 3 cases for Overdiagnosis or unnecessary treatment.

Ginger what are you trying to say? Don’t be scared if you get a breast cancer diagnosis? Don’t believe the result? Bind it in Jesus name?
No, I am not saying that o. Though te last suggestion is greatly recommended. I’m just saying that screening results are not a life sentence, don’t make rash decisions based on it. Discuss with your doctor. Seek second and third opinions.
We all have cancer: we all have abnormal cells that can potentially spiral out of control. Making the decision to live a more healthy life reduces cancer risks considerably. Start today.
P.S. In the UK, BRCA screening is offered to women 50 yrs and above. While women with a family history of BRCA are screened from their thirties. Know your family history. Know your risk. Love your breasts.
P.P.S. Info was obtained from NHS choices website

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Cupboard Full of Coats Review

A Cupboard full of Coats is powerful and well told debut novel from Yvette Edwards which was long listed for the 2011 Booker prize.  
I have to confess, I finished the book and flipped back through the pages to re-read the poetry in her words!
Yvette wrote with heart and sensitivity about a topic we are becoming very familiar with – domestic violence. But this time we look at the violence through the eyes of an indirect victim – a child.
Jinx was a 16yr girl who had lived most of her life cocooned in the safety and surety of her mother’s love (her father had died when she was 4).
Then her mother started a relationship with Berris. Their once tranquil London home was no more as Berris staked his authority with fists and belts, while his best friend Lemon watched on.
And when death happened, it was unexpected yet fated.

The plot navigated between the events in Jinx’s present and 14yrs ago when the tragedy occurred. Though the chapters were not dated, I found it easy to recognize which period I was in.

In a way it was a coming of age story, but it also touched on maternal/child relationships (Jinx struggle to love her own child was as painful and awkward for the reader as it must have been for her), friendship and betrayal (male/male, female/female), and the malignant feelings of hatred, blame, guilt which remain in the lives of all who witness domestic abuse.
The author’s characterizations made this book extra special. You had a feel of each character and are curious to know the whys and whats about them (Lemon was the most enigmatic with all the demons from his past hounding his present. I wanted to hate him soo much but yet couldn’t). I loved the suspense too. The author kept hinting at a climactic revelation and I was not let down when I finally got to it.

It was also about West Indies food. I wanted to taste every meal prepared by Lemon. I licked my lips and tongue wiped imaginary Plates. Lol.
Even something as simple as pumpkin soup sounded like ambrosia. I think I might try that recipe soon.

I could go on and on about this book, lol. Hope her next book is as good as this!

“There was a time if my mother had said 'we' she’d have meant me and her. Now it was them. She was still a part of we; it was me who wasn’t. 'They' used to be other people, those who lived outside our home. Now they were inside, it was me and them.”
"I couldn’t get the questions out of my head. Like, what could make a big man like Berris punch my mom in the face? How could he have looked at my beautiful mom and done that, then calmly sat downstairs and eaten? From what I saw, she did everything he wanted, tried her best to be perfect for him. I could think of nothing she could have done or said that made sense of how he had manhandled her."

"And the tears, the ones that had set us up the first time, the ones that had seemed so much like the real McCoy, that had made me felt sympathy when I should have felt fury, made her take him back when she should have banished him forever – those crocodile tears were history. He no longer stormed out or bawled or looked ashamed or even sheepish when he did what he did. Or when he gave her the coats afterward.
He would watch her as she struggled to smile despite the pain, watch her twirling and spinning inside them, as if every gift she had ever been given in her life had followed on the tail of a roasting and she expected no different, and his face would be set with a smile that was smug and satisfied, his eyes when they met mine were challenging, daring me to say a word."

"..As for my mother, everything I’d ever felt for her, the envy, the confusion, the sympathy, the annoyance, the admiration, the frustration, the love, that man removed everyone of those feelings.
She’d stood by and let the man she had chosen, the man she had brought into my father’s house, wear himself out on my skin without lifting a finger to stop him, not even a word or gasp or whisper."


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