Religion not enough for child marriage – Ezekwesili, Okei-Odumakin

Former Education Minister, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, and the President, Women Arise for Change Initiative, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, were among eminent Nigerians and groups that on Thursday frowned on the Senate resolution supporting child marriage.

Ezekwesili and Okei-Odumakin, who spoke at a seminar in Lagos, noted that religion could not be the only basis for the Senate to legalise the marriage of underage girls.

Their declaration came as the  Minister  of  Women  Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina, said Nigerian citizenship must remain gender neutral and safeguarded from cultural, religious and social interpretations.
Okei-Odumakin particularly described the Senate resolution as obnoxious, saying it would ruin the future of many Nigerian girls.

She criticised Senator Ahmed Yerima for insisting that the removal of Section 29(4)(b), of the 1999 Constitution was against the laws of Islam.
Okei-Odumakin said, “The truth is this has nothing to do with religion, ethnic group or culture. It has to do with protecting our children and future. We cannot allow religion to divide us.”

Ezekwesili said, “The issue of underage marriage has no religious correlation. It relates to the protection of the  girl-child and ensures that she has every opportunity to be at the state of mental, physical, psychological readiness in order to make certain decision in life.

“Even the Holy Books acknowledge this before marriage. We call on the Senate to delete Section 29 (4) (b) of the 1999 constitution.”
She added, “The Senate should also look into a section in the constitution that does not allow a Nigerian woman to offer citizenship to a foreign husband, and all other related sections. They should be corrected.”

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