Nigerian court dismisses murder case against child bride

by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/10/15, 04:55 pm

Wasila Tasi’u, 15, appeared Monday in a Nigerian court wearing a full-face veil. The case against her: murdering her husband with rat poison.

Tasi’u’s family married her to a 35-year-old man when she was 13. A year later, she allegedly poisoned a meal she prepared for her husband and three of his friends. Though she faced charges of culpable homicide and a possible death sentence, the court discharged Tasi’u’s case two days ago. Her lawyer, Hussaina Aliyu Ibrahim, said the prosecution failed to establish Tasi’u’s intent to kill and how she did it.

In Nigeria, 43 percent of girls like Tasi’u are married off before their 18th birthdays, according to UNICEF. In the predominantly Muslim northwestern Nigeria, the number is as high as 76 percent. In other countries such as Niger, the prevalence of child brides can reach 75 percent. In Ethiopia, it’s 41 percent.

The Council on Foreign Relations said cultural norms, poverty, and low respect for women fuel early marriage. As Sani Yerima, a Muslim and former Nigerian senator explained, “Islamic law allows marriage not by age but by maturity, which is attained once a girl reaches the age of puberty.” But not all Muslims agree: Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the emir of Kano State, who once worked as the governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, offered to shelter Tasi’u after her release.

Child marriage is deeply rooted in the culture. Tasi’u’s lawyer expressed fear for her client’s safety in her traditional community that believes she is getting away with murder.

Tasi’u’s high-profile case has brought renewed attention to the issue of child marriage. In 2013, Nigerian senators failed to reach a supermajority vote to nullify a constitutional provision allowing the practice. This sparked a string of protests as people showed their anger at the vote. In Ethiopia, The Berhane Hewan (Light for Eve) campaign offers mentoring and encourages families to keep girls in school and unmarried.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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