Nobel laureate Prof Wole Soyinka has advised President Muhammadu Buhari against assenting to the s*xual Offences Bill recently passed by the 7th National Assembly.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Chris Anyanwu, prescribed life imprisonment for anyone who has s*xual intercourse with a child under 11 years. However, it does open a loophole whereby pedophiles can marry an underage and be protected by law as a married female, no matter the age, will be considered an adult.
In an open letter to the human rights community as the commemorates the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election, yesterday, Soyinka noted that “all the new bill does is empower the clique of pedophiles. 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?
“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.” The Bill, being referred to by Soyinka was sponsored by Senator Ahmed Yerima, a former governor of Zamfara State, who himself married a 14-year-old.
“Does Yerima’s Bill, gleefully assented to by his peers, not simply vitiate this latter, supposedly humane concern for the protection of the child?” Soyinka queried.
“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 s*x objects. As long as you can afford a bag of rice or ten thousand dollars, you are free to r*pe 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.
“I find unacceptable any effort to build a nation on perversions that merely minister to man’s s*xual 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!”