Causes and prevention of under-age female abduction in Nigeria – By Tinyan Otuomagie

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 Under-age female abduction in Nigeria is a very complex issue-which involves a series of different socially accepted norms, each of which offers opportunities for intervention to prevent this very disturbing act from continuing.
It is important to first define abduction and its usage here. I have come to learn that there are two types of child abductions. One is family abduction – which is the taking of a child by a family member who might be a parent or other blood relation of that childwithout permission of the child’s current and legal guardian. Second is Non family Abduction – which means taking a child away by force or by inducement or by instigation or by misrepresentation or by coercion from one place to another. For the purpose of this short paper, I will be referring to the second definition, because it best gives meaning to our above stated discussion topic.
Under-age female abduction is a traumatic life-changing experience for any girl child, regardless of her tribe, religion or socio-economic status. Young girls, between ages 5-17 are forcefully separated from their families, friends and all that they know and hold dear, only to be violated, abused and traumatized. Though it only accounts for a small percentage of the many crimes committed against the girl child, it is however a devastating and life altering crime that is rooted more in gender based discrimination, which is as a result of tradition and religious practices and a failure in the laws that are to protect all citizens. Though many young girls pass through childhood safely, the current trend of underage female abduction is becoming alarming and cannot be addressed in isolation – it is inextricably linked to other silent, socially constructed and accepted discriminatory practices that girls have to live with throughout their lives.
To present possible preventative measures, various analytical models that are frequently used to analyze the causality of certain social phenomenon must be used. This will enable us take a critical look at and understand specific factors that contribute to this girl child human rights violation and the key actors involved. However, more time needs to be dedicated for us to achieve a sound and sustainable solution. For the purpose of this discussion topic, which has come as a result of the current abduction of Ese Oruru and other underage girls in Nigeria, I will touch on some visible but ignored causes that underline this phenomenon. Firstly we must ask ourselves a very important question.
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Why are under age females being abducted in Nigeria? Some possible answers to this question, is that they are being abducted to be turned into child brides, to be used as sex slaves,suicide bombers, for child trafficking, to be used for producing babies in a baby factories, for child labor and for organ harvesting, just to name a few. There are numerous root causes for under age females being more susceptible to the above human rights violations, which for the purpose of this paper, falls under the category of abduction and they are: Negative Traditional and Religious Practices – Forcefully taking a young girl, just because you want her as your wife or a sex slave is a practice that has been in existence in Nigeria for many years, however, with the advent of social media and people getting more enlightened, the stories are now being heard by the general public.
This practice continues under the umbrella of tradition or religion, thus, preventing the full enforcement of the law. Gender Inequality – In the Nigerian society, females often occupy lower status as a result of social-cultural traditions, attitudes, and beliefs, which tend to deny them of their rights and stifle their ability to play an equal role in their homes and communities. The girl child is usually not as valued as a male child. There is an unspoken traditional understanding of the low value placed on the girl child, and when she is in distress and in need of protection by the law, other religious and traditional method of reasoning is then implemented, making it difficult to challenge the discrimination that underpins the abduction of underage females. Poverty – All girls are vulnerable to abduction due to their gender, however, girls from low income families tend to be more susceptible to abduction and other extreme forms of gender based violations, due to family’s low income status, and this tends to translate into an inability to access their rights to challenge the phenomenon. Security – Once a child has been missing for 24 hours and it is established that he or she did not run away from home, all security agencies should be put on the alert and on a lookout for that child.That is however not the case in Nigeria, especially when it comes to female children from low income homes.
The longer a young girl is left in the hands of an abductor, the more likely she is to be subject to sexual and other gender-based violence. The security system/agencies in Nigeria have not been very effective when it comes to the protection of women and girls. Security should be there to intervene during the abduction process, however, due to their poor response time, the abductor would have completed his mission before the security agencies even show interest in the case. Failure to Enforce Laws – In Nigeria, there tends to be a breakdown in law enforcement, when the law comes in conflict with religion, tradition and ‘big men’ as was the case with a former governor, now Senator. However, based on the child rights act, the protection of the child by law, must be upheld at all times, thus, we need to support and expand policies and programs that will address the root cause of underage female abduction and Implement and improve on existing laws that will protect the girl child in and out of her State of Origin. We should also aim to equally protect both female and male children from predators and abductors. An underage female, who has been abducted, needs to have access to justice, her privacy/identity protected and provided with counselling and needed psycho-social support. Child abductors, regardless of their socio-economic status need to be prosecuted and convicted.
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The underage girl child needs to be kept off the streets. There are laws in place, which prohibit child labor. When young girls are not in school, either because they are on holiday or because their parents cannot afford to put them in school, government needs to provide an alternative for them. It is not every parent that can afford JAMB and it is definitely not every child that can pass JAMB, thus, vocational training needs to be made available for them so that they can keep busy and off the streets where they can be targeted by predators, and also they will be job ready when they are old enough to work. Constitution –Nigeria is governed by a constitution, but ruled by tradition, and in some parts of Nigeria, they are completely governed and ruled by religion, though they have copies of the Nigerian constitutions available to them. It is noteworthy to recognize that the religious values and belief systems that govern some parts of Nigeria are gradually permeating the rest of the country. This subtle infiltration of being governed by religious laws is already proving problematic. We experienced this in the recent case of Ese Oruru, when the Inspector General of police could not bring Ese home, even when he knew where she was being held, all because a particular religious leader needed to weigh in on the case. What happened to our rule of law in that instance? Parenting – Today’s parenting style needs to be more inclusive. The power imbalance between teenagers and their parents, which can sometimes breed fear in children, can contribute to the fact that under age females tend to keep a lot of secrets from their parents. Parents need to develop relationships with their children, so that they will be comfortable at all times to introduce them to or tell them about any new friends in their lives. Parents need to

 

030116-Ese-Oruruhave ID and current photos of their children, in case of an emergency. Education – When looking at possible preventative methods to address female underage abduction, education needs to be at the core. Girls are influenced by or make decisions based on their knowledge, awareness and understanding of issues/factors surrounding them. However, children need to have a good understanding of the importance of their need to stay focused on immediate issues that they face and have little capacity to envision and handle some of the dangers that they might encounter when they are not at school or with their parents. Peer education is one way to involve young girls in conveying information to other girls. I have used this method in several life skills training programs that I have conducted with teenage girls. When children are educated and equipped, they make better decisions and are better able to protect themselves. Community involvement – I have heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child, however, I wonder if this proverb still holds true in today’s Nigeria. Communities need to be more vigilant and involved in the day to day activities in their communities, especially when a stranger is lurking around. A lot of awareness needs to be created about this current phenomenon of the abduction of under age females in Nigeria, to enable us prevent future events like what happened to Ese Oruru. #everygirlchildmatters

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