In April, Wasila Umaru was married in a village in Northern Nigeria. The child bride, just 14 years old, is just one of many children who are forced into marriage before they are legally adults. According to the Independent, UN statistics show that approximately 39,000 child brides are married every day.
One week after the wedding, Wasila’s husband, Umaru Sani, who was 21 years her senior, died. Umaru Sani and three of his friends were poisoned by his Nigerian child bride whilst they were celebrating his new marriage. While the man invited his friends over with the intention of making merry, his child bride had something else in mind. According to the Daily Mail, Wasila laced her husband’s and his friend’s meal with rat poison which she then fed to them. The man and two of his friends died that same day while the third friend succumbed whilst receiving treatment. The Nigerian child bride admitted to killing her husband, stating that she was forced to marry a man she did not love.
Six months later, the child bride is facing charges that, if she is convicted, can cause her to be put to death. Yahoo reports that the Nigerian child bride broke down in tears while in court. When asked to respond to the charges against her, she was silent. The court took her silence to mean she was pleading not guilty to the charges.
In Nigeria, laws governing child marriage issues are unclear. News24 reports that under Nigeria’s marriage act, anyone under 21 can be married granted they have the consent of their parents or guardians. The families of both the deceased man and the child bride have stated that the union was not forced and the two followed the ‘traditional system of courtship.’ Wasila’s family has not stood behind her in this ordeal.
The child bride has supporters elsewhere, however. In south Nigeria, a mainly Christian region, social activist groups are calling for the release of the child, emphasizing that she is the victim in this situation and should be treated as such.
According to the child’s defense attorney, the case is not about the role of youth marriage in Muslim society, as many have been alluding to. What she is concerned with is that her client, a 14 year old, not be tried in a high court as an adult would be. She is arguing instead for the case to be moved to the juvenile system. Reports from News24 are that the lead prosecutor for the case involving the Nigerian child bride has expressed that if found guilty, the charge is punishable by death and the state would seek the maximum penalty.
Earlier this month, the Inquistr reported on a campaign started to raise awareness on the issue of child marriages around the world. The campaign features a blog supposedly created by a 12 year old Norwegian girl documenting her journey as a child bride to the altar to marry a 37 year old man.