Soyinka advices Buhari to Ignore Sexual Offences Bill

Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka is upset by the content of the Sexual Offences Bill recently passed by the 7th National Assembly .

He has, therefore, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to “never place his assent on such a nefarious distraction.”

One of the controversial  highlights of the  bill,sponsored by Senator Chris Anyanwu, is  the prescription of life imprisonment for anyone who has  sexual intercourse with a  child under 11 years.
Many Nigerians believe that the age ceiling should have been higher.

Professor Soyinka, in an open letter to the human rights community on the occasion of the June 12, 1993 election  anniversary, yesterday said that “all the new bill does is empower the clique of paedophiles. All you need do is “marry” even a six-year old under any local laws, and do whatever you want with her.

“Through marriage, she is already an ‘adult’. Her ‘defiler’ is now fully protected by this law. She is not. The current Bill is the ancient story of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.  End of story?”
He said: “The question on my mind is this: Is that legislative reinforcement not merely a case of rubbing vaseline on leprosy?

“In this supposedly progressive bill, sponsored by the respected Senator Chris Anyanwu. I could not help but notice a reiteration – as if to ensure that there is no ambiguity – of the word ‘child’,  near superfluously. Well, we understand ‘child’ as defined in most dictionaries.  There is however also child as defined by the Nigerian legislature. This  definition is contained in a prior Bill.”

That first Bill was sponsored by Senator  Ahmed Yerima,a former governor of Zamfara State.
Continuing,Soyinka said: “Does Yerima’s Bill, gleefully assented to by his peers, not simply vitiate this latter, supposedly humane concern for the protection of the child?

“This issue of child protection looms large all over the world – including bills passed or under debate. It is one that defines us in our own estimation and in global view as worthy to be counted among humanity, or as the base kind of living species that exist solely for their sensual gratification, even at the cost of the emotional and physiological well-being of the weak and vulnerable of society. Our lawmakers have betrayed our children.

“This latest addition of insult to social injury was tucked within a last-minute avalanche of bills that were passed at lightning speed during the tail-end of the last legislative assemblage – 47 bills in  under 3 hours – surely one for the Guinness Book of  Records. 

An accident? “Or by design? This bill, subjected to wrong arguments, merely consolidates the reduction of female minors to sex objects.  As long as you can afford a bag of rice or ten thousand dollars, you are free to rape a child to death. 

 This, surely cannot pretend to represent the will of a people who care. Once you re-define female adulthood as marital status, all subsequent protection bills for the girl-child are worthless, cynical.
“Neither culture nor religion is at issue here. It is, quite starkly, an issue of science, the science of the human body, one that demonstrably instructs us when the female human body is still at risk from conjugal rites.”

Asking Buhari to  refuse assent to the bill,Soyinka said:  “I find unacceptable any effort to build a nation on  perversions that merely minister to man’s sexual appetites. This is a sordid appeasement of a minority who actually require psychiatric help.

“Let us learn from the heroes of June 12.  Few people have done more for the cause of liberation than the Hero of this day.  M.K.O.Abiola was an open polygamist. None of his wives was ever found to be below the only age of consent that is now needlessly under contention  – the scientific. We cannot substitute science and observation for any spurious alibis that sacrifice the child to private lust!”

Source: The Nation
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