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Continued: Nigeria: Islamic and secular laws clash; senator married to child obstructs vote on age

  • Article by: MICHELLE FAUL , Associated Press
  • Last update: July 23, 2013 - 9:20 AM

"But nothing was done, he has got away with it," said women's right activist Obibi.

She pointed to the horrendous statistics that show a high percentage of young girls suffer damage in child birth, with maternity wards in the mainly Muslim north filled with young mothers whose vaginas, uteruses and anal passages have ruptured. According to the U.N. Children's Fund, Nigeria has 2 percent of the world's underage marriages but 10 percent of its victims of vesicovaginal fistula, which leaves the girls incontinent, dripping urine and feces.

Such girls are often divorced and abandoned, left to beg on the streets or turn to prostitution, Obibi said.

Dupe Killa, a human resources manager and mother of two girls, started an online petition at #ChildNOTBride after the Senate vote. When the petition was oversubscribed within hours, she decided to take to the streets to get signatures and has won support, including from the country's influential Movement for Islamic Culture and Awareness.

Protesters handed out #ChildNOTBride flyers featuring the silhouette of a girl with pig tails and bows set in a protective red circle. The petition urges the Senate and National Assembly to stop "loopholes within which Nigeria can continue to discriminate against half the population (i.e. females)."

Yerima was instrumental in introducing Shariah law to Nigeria's nine northern states in 2000 and 2001, when he was governor of Zamfara state. Another three states where Muslims form a plurality have since instituted Shariah as a substitute for Western-style family law for Muslims wishing to use it. The other 25 states are governed by secular law.

Shariah is interpreted differently by scholars and laws differ according to a country's history and culture. Fani-Kayode, the former minister, said most Muslim countries have banned child marriage and rape.

Nigeria's population, at 160 million the biggest in Africa, is almost equally divided between a mainly Muslim north and majority Christian south.

While the religions coexist peacefully in most of the country, there are frequent and bloody clashes between militant Muslims and Christians in the north. Tens of thousands of been killed over the years, and churches and mosques razed.

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