Though most of us are familiar with the reality of forced child marriages in many parts of the world, we will never have to experience the horror of being forced, as a child, to marry an adult against our will.
14-year-old Nigerian girl Wasila Umaru lived through this nightmare last week when her family forced her to marry a 35-year-old man. But Umaru, desperate to escape the unwanted marriage, took drastic measures to free herself from the union.
During a wedding celebration, Umaru poisoned her husband’s food with rat poison. The poision killed the husband and three of his family members.
When questioned by police, Umaru told authorities what you already know: she said she poisoned the man to escape being wed off to a man whom she did not love.
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The Montreal Gazette reports that Umaru will likely be charged with culpable homicide for the poisoning. It’s a cruel fate for a child who likely had no other means of escaping the forced marriage.
The issue of forced child marriages has received plenty of attention in recent months as Iraq moves towards legalizing arranged marriages of girls as young as nine years old. The legislation, which is described by Iraqi activist Hanaa Eduar as “a crime against humanity,” states that girls reach puberty at the age of nine, and, accordingly, can then be arranged into marriages. The proposed law also gives husbands the right to demand sex from their wives – even those who are only nine years old – any time they wish.
As abhorrent as Iraq’s proposed law is, it wouldn’t even be the least protective marriage law in the world. In Afghanistan, girls are often forced into marriages at just eight years old. In Yemen, there is no minimum age at which a child can be married. None. The only protection, if you can call it that, for children forced into marriages is that the marriage cannot be consummated until the child is ruled “suitable for sexual intercourse.”