The story of 14 year old Ese who was forcefully married to Yunusa a young man in Kano is all over the media in Nigeria. Yinusa abducted her in Bayelsa from her mum’s shop in 2015. Whether she was coerced or forcefully taken is still a matter yet to be unraveled. In my opinion even if she was coerced into following the young man it still does not exonerate Yunusa’s actions. The young girl was not matured enough to make such serious decision on marriage. I remember the case of a 14year old like Ese whom i was privileged to intervene in her case as a social worker. The man who married her was 45years old. He lured her with gifts and sweet words into marrying him without her parent’s consent. First he started by approaching her on her way from school. Soon an abnormal friendship blossomed between a 45year old and a 13 year old. This man got her pregnant and asked for her hand in marriage but of course her parents refused blatantly in annoyance. The girl one day ran away to the man’s house to start living with him and the matter became a matter for police intervention and the man was charged for abducting a minor and marrying her unlawfully. While trying to work on this case it was obvious the girl did not understand the implication of this on her future and well-being.
It is sad to note that Ese’s parent had sort help from appropriate authorities in order to secure the release of their girl but had to wait until eight months later. Only through the cry of the media and other human rights voices raised was Ese finally freed. Now Nigerians are demanding sanctions for those who held 14 year old Ese Oruru captive for eight months according to the PUNCH Newspaper of 1st March, 2016 pg 4.
I am happy we get to see a day when girls like Ese are fought for and protected by society’s one voice because that is what got her this freedom. There are many other young girls like her who have been forced into marriage through deception, pressure from their families to help sort out a financial mess; coercion, kidnapping and more.
The question on my mind is this, is Ese truly free?! What i mean by this is that Ese will need more than just her freedom physically from the clutches of Yunusa and a medical test. Attention should be paid to the effect this forced marriage and removal from her home must have on her emotionally and psychologically. If it is not properly taken care of might mar her future.
The law says anyone who marries a child is liable to a fine of N500,000 or 5yearsimprisonment or both. Yes Yunusa and all those who helped him will hopefully be made to face the wrath of the law to serve as deterrents to others but Ese need to undergo therapy and serious rehabilitation. This is because a child who is forced into marriage is no longer a child- her innocence has been stolen.
Take a look a few effects of forced marriage on Girls like Ese:
Her Childhood and innocence is stolen
It truncates a girl’s education
She becomes economically dependent on her spouse which leaves in the state of poverty.
She is Isolated from peers and friends
Becomes sexually active
She is exposed to sexually transmitted diseases
She can be psychologically affected: fear of men because of forced penetration during sexual intercourse
Exposure to violence as the spouse has power over her
Long life emotional and psychological trauma.
So now would Ese get all the help she needs to be fully rehabilitated emotionally and psychologically? Are her parents equipped to help her recover and move on with her life? We have to go beyond running Ese’s story in the media because it is a juicy human rights issue that can make all the actors politically correct. Someone needs to help Ese beyond her freedom!!
Another thing that Ese’s story forces me to take a look at is the role of parents and every adult in protecting their children/girls from predators like Yunusa. I wondered whether her parents did not see the signs of Yunusa’s attempt at luring their daughter. As we put it where i come from, “what were they looking at” when the young man abducted her. Every mother and father need to be more sensitive and do more in protecting their girls from predators like Yunusa. Our role as parents is not just to provide food, shelter and other basic needs for our children. We are worldly wiser because we have been around longer than they are therefore we need to pay attention to signs from adults around us who could constitute harm to our kids. We need to continually dialogue with our children and warn them about people who could lure them into doing things that would mar their future.
As a mother my heart goes out to Ese, i truly hope that she would get all the help she needs to help her forge a better future. May her woes become her spring board to a greater and brighter future.
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