Violence against woman and girls is a new pandemic rocking the world, including our nation. We cannot allow this injustice to continue. Our women and children, like every other citizen, deserve respect because they are human beings fearfully and wonderfully made by God.
Human trafficking is a brazen type of illegal cross-border trade that targets vulnerable young women and girls, who are being sold into slavery in different parts of the world. Most of the victims often have no idea that their sponsors or patrons dangle the carrot of lucrative jobs to lure them into slavery in strange destinations, like the baby factories in the South East of Nigeria.
The global media is awash with horror tales of innocent women and girls who labour in wealthy homes as house maids against their wills. Most of them are often oppressed by their employers under pitiable working conditions in factories, construction sites or homes. They earn meager, subsistence wages from which they are forced to pay commissions to the agents who got them those jobs.
In their quest to escape grinding poverty at home, these women embark on a dangerous search for greener pastures abroad but end up as sex slaves or prostitutes. The fact that the youth are the major victims makes this case more unfortunate.
Domestic violence against women and girls is, however, the most rampant form of abuse gripping many societies around the world. Here in Nigeria, many women and girls are trapped in unhappy marriages because they are given out in marriage as under-age girls for various reasons. Most of these girls have no capacity to determine the efficacy of such unions by themselves.
These child marriages are contracted by parents on behalf of their children in exchange for financial rewards by suitors, on the pretext of fulfilling a religious injunction that permits such anti-social practices. Some Muslim friends have told me that the Prophet Mohammad had decreed that once a girl sees her first menses, the next should meet her in her husband’s home. This is the excuse paedophiles give to sexually exploit under-age girls, in or outside legitimate marriages.
Of course, we all know why vesicovaginal fistula is so rampant in predominantly Muslim communities in the northern part of Nigeria. Early sex with a minor is the cause of the perforation of the tube conveying faeces and urine, which, invariably, makes the victim drop these wastes involuntarily and emit pungent odour. This is not a pleasant medical condition to live with.
Under-age girls are trapped in unhappy marriages or slave jobs when they are supposed to be in school. This is a cruel form of gender violence that society permits in the name of religion. It is as bad as wife battery in consensual, mature marriages because both practices make victims of women and girls. We need a holistic approach to deal with this problem.
First, under-age marriage and child labour must be outlawed with effective legislations that prescribed severe sanctions for violations. Second, basic education must be made compulsory throughout Nigeria and culprits must be made to face the wrath of the law. Third, employment of under-age persons or child labour should be effectively criminalized, like street trading by school-age kids. Fourth, domestic violence between couples or against children should be forbidden by law to protect our homes.
The civil society advocacy groups must rise up to the challenge of ensuring compliance with all subsisting legislations that are already in place, like the Child Rights Act. If laws are not enforced, they cease to be laws but mere literature in the statute books.
Our life coaches should now focus on teaching transformational messages to youth in schools and vulnerable communities, to open the eyes of our youth to the realities of life. Young people must realise that they have a right to education, decent jobs in peaceful, dignified environments, even if they are employed as domestic workers. Menial jobs should be legally redefined and reclassified to rid them of the stigma of lesser paying jobs, whose victims could be humiliated or subjected to any form of indignities on account of job labels.
Any job you do is a decent job so long as it is not prostitution or any illegal activity. Drivers, cleaners, laundry folks, maids, security personnel, cooks, etc, are all rendering valuable service to their clients like other prestigious professionals like doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers, journalists, computer scientists or bankers. All jobs deserve respect, regardless of income levels.
As for young folks who read this column, you should determine what you want in life. Don’t allow anyone enslave you. Even a 10-year -old now knows what is good for them. Children of this ICT generation are wiser and too smart to be led by the nose. Take control of your life and reject self-limiting philosophies, doctrines or creeds that compel you to live a life of domination or slavery. You are a free moral agent. Once you are 18 and above, you can decide your own destiny. Take that home.
Finally, go to school. Make sure you get an education. Education is key to human progress. You have all it takes to make it. Girls, don’t sell your bodies; don’t sell cheap. Take control of your life, you’d be happy you did.
Weekend Spice: The elevator to success is out of order, but the stairs are always open
– Zig Ziglar
Ok folks, let’s do again next week. Stay motivated, and keep safe. Covid-19 is real!
•Ayodeji is an author, rights activist, pastor and life coach. He can be reached on [email protected] and 09059243004 (SMS & WhatsApp only)