What does the Ese Oruru case say about Women’s Rights?


ese.oruruThe case of Ese Oruru is a tragedy for this young woman, but also indicative of the position of many women in our society today.  No teenage woman should be giving birth, and so giving up any chance of secondary or university education.

In the 21st-century, there should be no direct link between sex and pregnancy. But 47% of Nigerian women are mothers before they reach 20.  The link between education and pregnancy is clear.  62% of women with higher education have used contraceptives, whereas only 8% of women without education have done so.

More educated women are more likely to use modern and effective contraceptives.  In addition, if young women are allowed to continue their education they are more likely to be able take control of their own bodies.

This is not a religious issue. All children should be able to choose to adopt any, or no religion. This is a case of fundamental human rights for half of humanity.

Many women are just treated like property.  When they are young, they are the property of their fathers.  After getting married (which often includes a bride-price), they become the property of their husband.

Girls take the surname of their father.  On getting married many women symbolically take the surname of their husband – does this indicate that that they are now the property of their husband? Most 15-24 year-old women in Nigeria think it is reasonable for a husband to beat his wife if she burns the food, refuses sex or goes out without his permission.

Wole Soyinka, has rightly criticised the government for allowing the practice of child marriage to thrive. Soyinka said the trend will continue, if notable Nigerians, who marry under-aged girls, are not punished.

“Until we make an example of people like (Senator Ahmed) Yerima, there will be thousands of Yunusa,” said Mr. Soyinka. In 2010, Yerima (APC, Zamfara West) married a young Egyptian girl alleged to be only 13 years old.

When Ese Oruru was only 13, in August 2015, she left Bayelsa and went to live in Kano with her lover, Yunusa Yellow.  Here, her parents said she was forced into child marriage. Media reports and public outcry led to her being reunited with her family in Bayelsa, but she is now pregnant.

Nearly six million young women and men enter the labour market each year but only 10% are able to secure a job in the formal sector, and just one third of these are women.   As a result, for many young women getting pregnant and raising children is one of their few achievements in life.

All young women should have the opportunity to complete their education and to go to university.  To do this, they need the respect they deserve as fellow human beings.  They also need to be able to control their own bodies and so have access to modern and effective contraceptives.  For all young women to have access to effective contraceptives these need to be made available at no cost from public health centres and clinics.

All young people, women included, need the opportunity to obtain decent jobs.  They should then be able to choose when and if they become pregnant. Certainly, in any decent society, teenagers would not be getting married or becoming pregnant.

– Tina Ndi



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