Senator Yerima and Constitutional Review – By Maryam Uwais

Once again, Senator Yerima is in the news, claiming Islam as the basis for his argument that a girl automatically transforms into an adult of ‘full age’ once she is married, with the attendant responsibilities that relate to the renunciation of citizenship, irrespective of her age or mental capacity. Because the Senator from Zamfara State has gone public with his personal comprehension of the Shari’a, it has become necessary to respond publicly to his utterances.

It should be pointed out, however, that several media reports on the constitutional review debate at the Senate give the impression that underage marriage has been endorsed by the Senate Chambers. Facts are that S.29 of the 1979 Constitution permits a Nigerian citizen of ‘full age’ to renounce his or her citizenship by declaration in a prescribed manner, for which purpose ‘full age’ was stated to be 18 years and above. The subsection also provides that, ‘any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age’. In its current efforts to review the Constitution, the Senate Committee had determined that the particular subsection should be deleted, basically because citizenship has no bearing on gender, as for example, voting, the right to drive a car, possess a weapon or such similar social interactions that are evolving or are germane to a democratic Nation. Senator Yerima, however, vehemently argued (and lobbied) against the removal of the clause, on the grounds that deleting that clause was against (his understanding of) Islam. In his understanding, a girl, once married, automatically assumes the full mental capacity and responsibility to consciously make the prescribed declaration of renouncing her citizenship.

This position needs to scrutinized carefully, against the backdrop of similar positions that obtain under the Shari’a and in our context, as a Nation. Does it then follow that the married girl who is below 18, at election time, would be permitted to vote, or is her not being issued a voters card un-Islamic? Is the Senate now going to make an exception to that law, permitting her to vote, or even drive, in accordance with (Senator Yerima’s understanding of) Islam?

Contrary to the position conveyed by the Senator from Zamfara, there is certainly no unanimity of positions on such contemporary matters of social interaction, within Islamic jurists or the various Schools of Thought. Surely where there is ‘silence in thetexts’ (i.e primary sources) or lack of unanimity as regards a particular practice, that opening allows for a society to determine for itself what is in its best interest (maslaha), in its own context. What about married Muslim girls who inherit property? Is it not the position that in some cases, where not considered sufficiently mature (‘sufaha’, based on Qur’an 4:6), such property remains in the custody of her guardian, until she grows to be intellectually mature? This would, of course, depend on her age, mental capacity and the size and nature of the property. Why does such property not devolve upon her automatically upon marriage, to deal with it as she wishes,irrespective of her mental capacity? There definitely appears to be no basis, under the Shari’a, that would compel a girl to deal with matters of such gravity as therenunciation of citizenship, merely because she is married. Islam is certainly not so presumptuous or harsh as to burden her with what she is mentally and physically incapable of bearing. Her guardian is permitted to determine the age or stage at which such a child can be entrusted with such grave responsibilities, the assessment of her mental capacity being the main determinant.

As a Muslim woman (without pretensions of scholarship) forever striving for knowledge, research into these matters has revealed that in matters of social interaction (mu’amalat), there is a lot of latitude in what is permitted, unless it is expressly prohibited by a clear text. The rules are certainly not so definitive. What is also evident is that the ‘best interests of the child’ is a paramount consideration within Islam, along with the principle of public good (maslaha or istislah). The operational rules are not defined (probably deliberately, in my humble view) and the determination of such issues is best left to the experience, custom and context of the particular society. The Qur’an provides that the predominant consideration in matters relating to children would depend on the point at which they can be said to not be ‘sufaha’ (mentally immature) anymore, in the context of that particular community.

It is interesting that Senator Yerima would rather link the weighty and dispassionate subject of citizenship with his understanding of gender vis a vis his perception of the age of marriage, rather than with other matters of social interaction, such as those relating to inheritance rights, driving or even voting. Indeed, citizenship is a contemporary phenomenon within the Sharia, as in the early days the concept of citizenship had not been defined and people traveled across boundaries, without restriction. In a Muslim community, when matters evolve, it is for scholars or experts in Islamic legal philosophy-‘Usul-al-Fiqh’- and juristic reasoning (and not even those solely learned in the Qur’an-‘Mussafirun’, the Fiqh-‘Fuqaha’ or the Hadith-‘Muhaddithun’), to analyze the issues with a view to arriving at an appropriate position for the context of that relevant community. In this particular instance, it is certainly perplexing for the Senator to insist so categorically that even a married ‘intellectually immature’ girl must be permitted to renounce her citizenship, irrespective of her mental capacity. The foundation for such a general and sweeping statement within the Shari’a is difficult to locate.

The public good remains the overriding consideration in the process of analytical reasoning by those qualified for the purpose, so long as the deductions are not in direct conflict with the primary sources of the Shari’a. Therefore, in following arguments repeatedly canvassed by the Senator, it may be necessary to examine the context in which we live, to determine what is good, for the purpose of encouragement and support, and what remains harmful to our society, to be confronted, discouraged or prohibited by Muslim jurists.

Today the North of Nigeria continues to throw up Nigeria’s poorest indices on matters relating to healthcare, nutrition, education, empowerment and productivity. Consequently, unemployment, insecurity, violence and poverty remain rife in that region. Statistics have it that 2/3 of the 102 million poor people in Nigeria live in the North. Extreme poverty in the North translates into extreme vulnerability to the effects of climate change, food security and so much more. Incidentally, over half of the women in the North are married off by the age of 16 and commence childbirth within the first year of marriage. Also, of the 16 million births by girls below the age of 18, 9 out of 10 of them are married.

Facts are that nearly half of all the children under 5 years of age are malnourished in the North East zone, with women and children in the nutrition ‘high-burden’ States of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe andZamfara suffering the most from malnutrition, wasting and stunting. This singular factor remains the underlying cause for 53% of under-5 deaths. If the child is stunted in its first 1000 days, that condition is irreversible, so the future of these children, and the larger population, is permanently shortchanged. The health and nutritional needs of mothers, new-borns and children are closely linked, with young mothers accounting for a majority of severely malnourished children.

Multiple health risks arising from child marriage include the sexual exploitation (including forced sexual relations) that she is subjected to, as well as limited access to reproductive health services, despite the real and present danger of contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDS, STIs (sexually transmitted diseases) and the debilitating ailment of VVF/RVF (VVF-a tear in the flesh between the vagina and the urinary passage, usually due to prolonged labour, resulting in uncontrolled urine or feces in the case of recto-vaginal fistulae-RVF), including the abandonment that comes with such ailments. Nigeria, with 2% of the world’s population, has 10% of VVF patients. Three-quarters of those with VVF/RVF are young girls who are not yet physically mature but have suffered trauma in their first pregnancy.

Statistics show that stillbirths and deaths are 50% more likely in babies born to mothers younger than 18, as against babies born to mothers above that age. Each day, 144 women die in childbirth in Nigeria, with the North East alone having 5 times the global rate of maternal mortality. The lack of information and access to support ultimately results in psycho-social and emotional consequences, domestic violence, abandoned (street) children, with the attendant deprivations of their rights and freedoms, whose wellbeing is severely compromised. The prevalence of the abuse of the right to the exercise of divorce by Muslim men has only compounded the situation, leading to so many negative social deviations such as substance abuse (that has become so rampant), commercial sex work and the complete loss of values in the entire family set up.

Many of these adolescents are married off to men much older than they, and because of the associated power differentials, this singular factor impedes communication between them, with the girl having no negotiation skills in crucial decision-making that may affect her life. Having lost out on these critical life opportunities, these married adolescents can never aspire to living as meaningful and productive members of society. Not being able to participate actively in the community translates to their losing out completely on benefitting from economic activity and earning a decentincome. Many of these girls remain excluded from community life, having been separated from peers and family members by marriage. Depression sets in. A life of diminished opportunities. The community loses out completely; the economy cannot improve where half its population is stuck in this rut.

Child marriage, from available statistics, ultimately hampers the efforts of these young adolescents from acquiring an education, as sooner than later, they find it difficult to combine the onerous responsibilities of being a wife and mother, with schooling. They drop out, if they have not been removed for the purpose of marriage, in the first place. Consequently, 70.8% of young women aged 20-29 in the North West zone are unable to read or write. Due to the fact that these girls are deprived so early of an education (including the access to information and knowledge) they remain bereft of the purchasing power necessary for an adequate diet, healthcare,skills, or even recourse to support in emergencies, all of which would enable them rise above the circumstances of abject poverty. It is paradoxical that Muslims like Senator Yerima would rather their wives and daughters be treated by female medical personnel if they fall ill, and yet they are, by continuously advocating for child marriage, deliberately closing the avenues for girls to aspire to such professions.

Deprivations of formal and non-formal education translate, at such an early age, into restrictions on mobility, domestic burdens, the denial of sundry freedoms in respect of survival, development and participation, as well as the loss of adolescent years. Indeed, children of young, uneducated mothers are also less likely to attain high levels of education, perpetuating cycles of low literacy and limited livelihood opportunities. Child marriage, therefore, ultimately deprives societies of the intellectual and financial/livelihood contributions of girls, and of their offspring. It is no wonder then that the North continues to portray such poor ratings in almost all aspects of human endeavour.

As a consequence, MDGs 1 (relating to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger), 2 (on education), 4 (on reducing child mortality), 5 (on maternal health), 6 (on combating diseases) remain unattainable goals (at least in Northern Nigeria), if we cannot confront the consequences and implications of child marriage. Evidently, the geography of poverty requires a coherent and urgent Northern strategy and a solution to the instability that has bedeviled the region in recent years. Against this background of grim data, we can ill afford to play politics with the obvious deficiencies in our human capital. The North, as an intrinsic part of Nigeria needs to improve on all fronts, to impact positively on Nigeria’s progress and support its growth. Since child marriage has all these devastating and diminishing implications, surely checking the increase in the practice can only trigger and catalyze positive growth, in so many dimensions.

It is certainly not mandatory in Islam that girls must be married off as minors, so to keep insisting that this practice must remain sacrosanct, given the background of needs in Northern Nigeria, is incongruous, even under the Shari’a. Where a practice is determined to be merely permissible and not mandatory, it is considered practicable and entirely feasible within Islamic jurisprudence, to discourage or prohibit it, where it is found to be so harmful to individuals and to the community. Countries such as Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Somalia and Bangladesh, with majority or high Muslim populations have set a minimum age for marriage as 18, in the acknowledgment that there are serious social, physical and mental health risks associated with child marriages. This progressive step became necessary, in that these indisputable facts placed a heavy burden on the accountable and God-fearing leadership in majority Muslim countries, to protect the vulnerable in their midst.

It is, therefore, not unreasonable to expect that educated elite and public figures such as Senator Yerima, being conscious of their grave responsibilities to prohibit harm and to enjoin good in our own context, should actually discourage this devaluing and belittling practice of early marriage, in the public good, for the protection of the vulnerable and the realization of social benefits. To enable our girls attain their fullest possible potential is definitely a target that Senator Yerima should also be working passionately towards, along with the rest of Nigerians who yearn for a better future.

Indeed, the overriding objectives of the Sharia include the promotion of human dignity, justice, compassion, the removal of hardship, the prevention of harm, the realization of the lawful benefits of the people, and the education of the individual by inculcating in him a sense of self discipline and restraint, which aims are by no means exclusive. All else may be adapted to achieve these ends, which measures may encompass matters of concern not only to law but also to economic development, administration and politics. For those that reflect, the hardship that these little girls experience, where married off and divorced soon after, so wantonly, is certainly unacceptable within the faith.

Although the fundamentals of faith and the practical pillars on which they stand remain immutable in principle, they may be interpreted and justified at the level of implementation in the exercise of public good. This process must of need be carried out solely by persons learned and eminently qualified to speak on the subject matter in question. We must always bear in mind that the ‘appropriation’ of divine authority in religious interpretation is best left to Scholars learned in Islamic legal philosophy and analytical reasoning. Having acquired the requisite knowledge and expertise (including the capacity to weigh the various views in the particular sphere of learning in the context of our times), these Jurists would also need to have imbibed, at the barest minimum, the attributes of humility, compassion, reflection, wisdom, self-restraint, diligence, objectivity, along with piety. Our learned Scholars must stand up and be heard, rather than remain silent on matters that so adversely affect us as individuals, as a region, a Nation and as members of a global community, which challenges paradoxically controvert the deeper meaning and purpose of the Shari’a.

Back to the issue in contention, it is important to commend the thinking behind the decision to delete the constitutional clause that seeks to lumber even an ‘intellectually immature’ girl, where married, with the grave responsibility of the power to renounce her citizenship, thereby elevating the subject of citizenship to the level whereby both men and women have similar responsibilities, without discrimination. It is hoped that ultimately, members of the Senate would reflect deeply on the implications of their recent action and revisit their decision to retain the contentious clause, if only to ensure that every Nigerian citizen of full age, without distinction, is subjected to similar standards and responsibilities under the provisions of our Constitution.

Maryam Uwais MFR
Chairperson, Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative, Kano
20th July 2013

About the author


In the beginning...Let there be Light

  • Sani Dantuni Bello

    The article of Maryam have little or no substance, she was unable to provide facts and reasons from base on Islamic perspective. I therefore call on her to back her point with relevant provision of the Quran and the hadith.

  • @mexim

    Excellent article.

  • Stephen Olusesan Adebayo

    God bless you madam Uwais! This is the most objective article I have read in recent times. Every Nigerian should read it. I am very happy because the writer first and foremost is a woman. she is a muslim. she is a northerner………. her logical reasoning is the reason every girl child should be educated irrespective of their ethnicity or religion rather than marrying them off.

  • Ahmed Mamman Halidu

    Nice write up but bias because she’s making us feel child marriage is the sole cause of all the bad indices from the north (especially from north east) and in any case,did the amendment says you MUST accept all offers for your minor’s hand in marriage?

  • Hamza Mohammad

    It is not enough to make references to the holy Qur’an without specifying the relevant sections to back them up. It is intact a disrespect to the kalimah(words ) of Allah.
    This article is rather self opinionated than it is an erudition.

  • Annie Okoh

    Thank u Maryam. If Yerima & those inconsiderate men knows what it is 4 a woman 2 labour they wouldn’t allow a child 2 go through it. They jst donate d sperm n d woman get stressed 4 9months n bring forth in pain nt knowing if she ill survive or nt. God help us. I weep 4 womanhood

  • Wumi

    This is a very good and thorough analysis but it is a pity that the muslim men are even the ones against this good write-up. Why?…but all the same, kudos to Madam Uwais. I have muslim female friends that are very intelligent and brilliant so I think the muslim girl should be given a chance to education, the sky is surely their limit!!!

  • nathan

    Madam Uwais has hit the nail on the head and that proverbial head is bleeding badly right now. Its up to us as a country to choose which way we want to go. I think it is also important to let my brothers and sisters in the north know that, their senators who are supposed to be representing their interests do not wish them well. Without sounding tribalistic, if the north wish to catch up with the south then they should spearhead the campaign against child marriage, so that their girls can rise to become women of prominence and sustain the socio-economic development of the north.

  • Nelo

    Am impressed by this write up,@ least it corrected an impression I had about Northerners.I so much love where she wrote that Yerima might be among those that would prefer their wives being treated by female doctors when they are ill, the question now is would the female doctors fall from heaven if these young girls are deprived of education? Thank u very much Maryam

  • @ObiJerrie

    Maryam Uwais’ article has clearly presented the position that every sane person, irrespective of his/her religious inclinations, should take and insist upon without compromise. Any age-old cultural, pseudo-religious practice that is detrimental to the lives and advancement of any member of the society should not be permitted to continue. However, the bottlenecks that produces the constraints against the abolition of child marriages in Nigeria are, apart from the vocal proponents of under-aged marriage amongst our northern elites, the significant number of regional representatives and lawmakers (inclusive of Sharia scholars to whom Uwais appealed for support in providing the correct and more authoritative interpretations of Islamic laws in order to protect our children from this prevalent menace to their lives and destinies) are themselves ardent practitioners of this shameful and inhumane practice of child marriage. hence, their silence can easily be viewed as a tacit approval to this evil. This is the sad reality that we must face courageously and resist vehemently till our girls are freed from this debilitating bondage.

  • Femi

    What Madam Uwais has written is wonderful. While she writes with bias (because she knows what benefits she has enjoyed from education and getting married when she was older than 16), I think that religious laws MUST consider the health/wellbeing of those that practice such religions. Otherwise, such religion becomes a yoke on such individuals. Well said madam.
    Also, if there was no such thing as #childmarriage, then people won’t have to consider rejecting offers for their young children.

  • sheshi

    These days children of less than 18 are both mentally and physically matured. Most are in the univercity and have their degrees between 18. Age really is no more a defining factor for maturity. So full age should be pegged at 18. Its like we are limiting the capacity of our children….Sheshi

  • bimpe

    @Ahmed Mamman Halidu, you said the write up makes u feel that child marriage is the sole cause of all the attending problems of the north, I think it is. This girls are married off early and before they attain adulthood they are divorced, leaving them to cater for her children without support from their fathers or her parents. So the children grow up outside a normal family setting and how would a child bring up a child? She can’t get a job to cater for her children as per good food and proper healthcare saying the least. Let’s leave religious sentiments and face facts.
    @mariam your write up is enlightening and I’m impressed that being a northener and a women with a sound knowledge of your faith, you could attain this height. Every notherner should strive for their daughters to be like you.

  • Safiya

    Alhamdulillah for this write-up that is enlightening to all Nigerians and also a call to action for our Ulama to speak up and say what is right and in the best interest of the girl child and society at large.

    To Sani, Hamza and Ahmad, do note that she (Maryam) is not claiming to be a scholar but rather calling on the scholars to do their duty in resolving this matter without bias or prejudice. Also, she did not attribute problems of the north to early marriage, rather, she identified early marriage as a big factor we cannot afford to sweep under the carpet (if you feel otherwise, you are on your own). Finally would like to say, ku ji tsoron Allah.

  • Polymath

    I’m not surprised some Northerners are against this write which to me is the least pretentious of all the writes I’ve read on this issue.

    The problem here is not a matter of religion, but a matter of understanding of the religion. I’ve read so much about Prophet Mohammed and without doubt, he is of a kindred spirit. He never advocates for tribulations and he always wants what is best for everyone. Some Muslims are basing their defense on the child marriage on the hedge that Prophet Mohammed married a six years old Aisha. But I challenge them to read the circumstances behind the marriage. Moreover, the Arabia during the prophet’s time is different from Nigeria of 2013. Back then, it is not a crime to marry your cousin but now, it is termed incest. It is very insultive on the prophet for the deemed sholars to use this instance as a back up for this terrible act. If they want to live like the prophet, they should give all their wealth to the poor just like the prophet was fond of doing. They should welcome visitors to their house, feed them and cloth them without any inhibition. They should pray to Allah in public with other faithfuls instead of hiding in their well guarded and secured mansion.

    Yerima married a girl three years ago and she is barely 17 now, and he is the main perpetrator clamouring against the removal of the cursed clause. Is his motive not glaring enough?

  • Charlz

    Fantastic write-up! A very balanced perspective indeed.

  • gimbiya

    Leave religious sentiments aside and face facts. There is no shortage of mature ladies for full grown men to resolve to marry babies. This is highly pervertous, insensitive, inconsiderate and wicked. Weldone madam Uwais, a brilliant piece indeed.

  • yaks

    There lost of issues dat are more improtant than dis child marriage…ASSU has bein on strike and curruption is goin on evrywher…let’s leave dis controvsial zamfara man wit his ideology

  • Bella

    @Bimpe.. At the point of marriage.. Kids are amost always with their father, they are his responsibility. You people keep saying these girls dnt have access to education and this and that but even those that aren’t married still don’t! Have you looked closer to see why these things really happen? Stop pointing out that they happen and see how we can tackle it from d root. A stupid argument on law will not stop it. I come from the up North and I see what goes on there.. Until you establish strong education for them, welfare and all.. These girls will always be hawkers and alternatively be married off by their parents for fear of being taken advantage of and that she can be taken care of better.. So ur target isn’t a law or whatever.. t

  • Auwal Iro Bello

    What a piece. More power to your elbow

  • Funmbi Olanrewaju

    Very articulate write up. Kudos to you Madam Maryam, for standing up to be counted. This is what we need in Nigeria, the truth without ethnic or religious bias

  • anas

    What a piece..this is the best thing to come out of this “under-age Marriage bruhaha. God bless you Mrs. Maryam.

  • Nice, but biased submissions. First of all, she needs to be told that child marriage is not only a northern thing. It is prevalent everywhere, even in the south.

    Secondly, her concern seems to be that the north is poor, no health care, is lam-nourished, lacks education etc, but she didn’t tell us how this is a direct cause of child marriage. Agreed that the absence of this things makes child marriage very risky, especially when you consider that a lack of healthcare for example may be portend danger for a pregnant girl during delivery, but i rather submit that it is like treating cancer with the medicine for headache. The danger is not as a result of the fact that the girl is a girl child. It is in the fact that, there are no medical assistance to take care of her. The VVF she mentioned for instance is not a direct consequence of early child birth. It is a consequences of lack of health care.

    Mariam Uwais also seem more concerned about the rate of out of school children in the north, on her assumption that it is as a result of child marriage, but she forgot to that the absence of educated children in the north is not based on gender. The female may be more, but male are equally lacking in access to education. That is why almajiris is prevalent.

    If Uwais is saying on the basis of healthcare, education, poverty, mal-nutrition etc in the north, girls should not be married at an early age, i can slightly agree, but to use this as a basis to kick against early marriage is out of place. Is it only the girl child that lacks this indices of health care, food, education that she mentioned? The older women also lacks this things, though the effect of the risk may be more in younger girl, but it is no basis to kick against younger girl getting married. Perhaps, she should find more coherent reasons and i will support here.

    Like i always told those who have the patience to listen with open mind, i am also against child marriage, but in support of early marriage. Where i may differ with some persons is what constitutes child marriage and early marriage. I have made my own conclusions on the two based on facts. I urge others to do so. Let them define who a child is. May be from there, where will be able to find a solution to this debate.

    To conclude on Uwais submissions, i will say that rather than we talking about curbing child marriage, let us fight for the provision of good governance in especially the north that she cited as example. If the people of the north are not poor, they have access to god food, education, health care, etc, there will not be any complication in younger girls who decided to get married. Let us fight the social ills of bad governance first and see if it will have any bearing on girls who get married early.

    I will leave you with this article. Please find time and read it so we can educate ourselves beyond what we think we know: My Thoughts On ‘Child’ Marriage – By Dr. Peregrino Brimah

  • @amechiegbuna

    Highly educative and unbiased.must salute her courage on this. Article with her being a muslim.that humans(both xtians*n*muslims alike will come out openly and give their voices in surport of this barbaric and savage practice amazes me!and with all the medical risks,educational deprivation,social stigmatisation,and inherent societal backwardness that this portends for the girlchild and the society atlarge.
    I fervently pray that this petitions will get to the appropriat authorities and freethe girl child from the shackles of the YERIMAS of this world.

  • Well researched, non-partisan opinion with appropriate references and facts. This represents candid and factual views of a non-Christian, as such, cannot be dismissed as being biased views. We need similar views expressed by Muslims about religious matters.

  • alexandra

    i am impressed and i must say kudos to yu for this write up. The law is an entity that should protect d citizens of its country regardless of gender,tribe and social status. All dose against this write up are im sure are those dat would give their underage daughters out for marriage willingly. They are all just trying to hide their peverse and disgusting sociopathic nature under d guise of Islam. The fact dat a law was made to sanction the marriages of little girls is appalling. And although there are other issues to tackle in d country dis by far is d most disgusting and urgent. Any child is entitled to education and if a girl comes of age as soon as she is married den it should also be that she should be allowed a white collar job( possibly a managerial position), a drivers license, a voters card and d right to run for a political position after all “she is of age”. it wud be nice to see a 13 year old female senator.

  • Mr Bature

    Age of marriage in America

    The United States is by no means a standard for Nigeria’s legal decisions or considerations, however for a robust conversation, I will like to point out the ages of marriage in various states in America. In all states, to marry without parental and/or court consent, the minimal age is 18. But, with parental and in some cases, additional family court consent, the ages of marriage are rather interesting and will be a cause of grief for Nigerian senators and the media, no doubt: New York has the minimum being 14 years. North Carolina allows marriage at 14 years too. South Carolina sets it at 14 for females and 16 for males. And New Hampshire sets their minimum age of marriage at 13 years.

    But it gets more interesting. In several states, there is actually no legal minimum age of marriage. Nigerians will say, ‘so you can marry at one year old?’ Yes, so it appears in the United States–with court approval, theoretically you can. Washington state, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Texas and Rhode Island states set no minimum age of marriage for Americans. Once you can get court approval, you can marry in these states, regardless of your biological age. This information is freely available online. This website carries it:

  • olu_D

    Very brilliant piece. I am however worried by the statistics in support of her position, its so so sad. I- as a Nigerian – am ashamed that after more than 50yrs of self determination we can produce such statistics. If there are real men in this country…there should be a lot of suicides from reading this. Its even more appaling and utterly distasteful that the senate has also just appended its signature to legislation designed to keep this madness in perpetuity. ThiS is a shame.

  • Olasunkanmi shobowale

    Succinctly narrated and summarized the greater problem of not just the Northern part of this country but the whole of Nigeria as a whole. This document must be presented on the floor of both the senate and the Reps and must also be adopted as a guideline to work against all the ills identified in it. I duff my hart for this wonderful woman with Godly-heart that has over the years been correcting the wrongs created by god-forsaken power drunks thieves we call leaders. May Almighty Allah continue to bless you and guide you and also motivate you to do more.

  • Hakeem Raji

    I am truly grateful to Mrs Maryam Uwais for speaking in true representation of Islam. The world today represents anyone who speaks having identified himself as a Muslim as representing the views of Islam. This saddens my heart. Islam teaches moderation and the respect of the rule of the land. It instructs us to seek knowledge even if it takes us as far as China. It is then of grave disappointment that people like Senator Yerima would take such a position and attribute it to Islam. I call on people all over the world to seize from associating the ignorance of a few just on the basis that they call themselves Muslims, to representing the teachings of the religion of Islam. I also wish to seize this opportunity to ask that the people of the world avail themselves of the privilege of reading the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith of our beloved Prophet (S.A.W.) as this will help in better understanding for yourselves what is true about Islam. Once again I stand totally in line with our learned mother as she truly represented the guiding principle of Islam and the Shari’ah on this subject. Long live Nigeria in unity and prosperity. …Amin….

    Abdul-Hakeem Raji.

  • Folaranmi Victor

    Personally, I feel this views are from a jaundiced writer who failed to cite many issues and factors. She accorded problems peculiar to boh under-age marriage and adult marriage to the girl-child marriage alone. As an elite, she should be able to back her points up by the sovereign and sacrosanct constitution of Nigeria as well as the Holy Quran. Maryam, you’ve made little or no point; you’ve only tried in confusing readers with your write-up.

  • dolapo

    As a community Health specialist, I am impressed by the writers knowledge of socioeconomic and health indices of the North. They are as bad as she pointed out. And yes, child marriage is a major contributor to these woes! Why would u put a 12 year old girl at the risk of having VVF and say that having good health services is the solution? Now, let’s look at a scenario, a 12 year old girl is married to a 45 year old man, obviously she will not be able to deny him sex, and her schooling also stops. 15 years down the line, she would have had at least 6 children, no education, no personal income, and no bargaining power whatsoever. She will probably at that time be tje 2nd out of four wives of this average man on an average income. Her children will be sickly because of poor diet, she will not be able to take good care of them because she lacks the finances and knowledge. If she doesn’t die earlier at childbirth, she’ll probably die later while giving birth to the 7th child, leaving her children without a mother! She would have contributed nothing to her society, so would have spent her life just rearing babies without any opportunity to even dear hope for a better future!

  • mo

    You people mentioning US marriage age is 14yrs you’re all lairs. Any body remember Aaliyah who married R.Kelly in a remote town at the age of 14 or 15yrs and falsified it to 18yrs. After the authority found out the marriage was dissolved due to the fact that she is a minor less than 18yrs. So where did you come up with your lies. Same people that will say they don’t want anything to do with western education, now using U.S to lie and site examples. The divorce rate in the north is very high and the ages of this girls are between 18-25 what a shame. 800,000 girls in the with VVF. For you saying she didn’t site Koran verse, then I’ll refer you to this article by another intelligent lady she site so many examples from the Koran. I’ll also leave you with this verse You can read this Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Hadith 235 , because you all claim Mohamed married Aisha early. He didn’t do it out of his own will, but because of the revelation he had. More grease to your elbow madam for this article.

  • suu

    God bless you Lady Mariam, they think its all about the marriage alone. Let them allow this girls go to sch and chose better lives and chareers for themselves so they can be interlectuals like u. All this men are interested in is sleeping with young virgins and divorsing them after a short while to pick the next available one not minding the consequences and the effect it would have on the society

  • Eme

    i think some senators are there not because they merit it or will i say they are educated but because they gat some money…so tell me ,you think they will contribute reasonably ?even little kids knows very well that they are there because of wealth ….

  • Amina B Poloma

    What a breath of fresh air this article made my day not this hateful things people write but this is educational

  • Olumide omo

    Insightful points and unblemished and balanced wonders if the north and indeed Nigeria would not be better off with more women like her both in public and private life

  • Adekunle

    Well articulated piece. God bless madam Uwais for putting this together for Nigerians to digest.

  • Eric Oshilaja

    What an evil act simply masterminded by some selfish politicians, same senator that wouldn’t want male medical practitioners attends to his wives/daughter, now clamoring for early girl marriage; meaning he values female medical practitioner. I feel for this Northern(core) part of our beloved country. Same folks that are against Western education, wouldn’t reject Western technologies,inventories,discoveries and so on.

  • Taiwo Moses

    I am not disappointed at all with this but rather doff my hat. It has helped to straighten things for minds that want to be enlightened and hope this will help to arrest all the brickbats that is being thrown around in the name of ethno – religious differences.Good delivery. As the Court pleases – Her Lady ship

  • Wale Onajoko

    This is such a brilliant and intellectual argument from Mrs. Maryam Uwais. I believe for Nigeria to move forward, politicians like Senator Yerima must stop playing politics with the lives of the people by submerging overall public good in the abyss of their sinking morality and character ineptitude. I am happy that this piece is coming from a respected Islamic scholar.

  • chucks

    This is quit interesting to read especially those beautiful point you brought to our attention. i will rather say , it’s quit absurd the senator based his point on Islamic laws. interestingly to note, NIGERIA IS A SECULAR STATE.if a witch doctor come to the floor of the senate to pass a bill that traditionally human ritual is legal because it is accepted in their form of worship, i won’t be surprise the senate will consider it because it was brought by one of their own . my point is NIGERIA IS NOT AN ISLAMIC STATE as such bringing such sensitive matters archaic though to impose on Nigerians does not show respect or regard to other religion allowed by Nigeria state. Amongst pressing issues facing our great nation that deserve urgent and immediate attention, the senator deem it worth while to invest his time, effort and resources in this.

  • Yerima should know that he’s creating a forumforum for CHILD ABUSE and that his billl is anti- Nigerian n children.Is it @ his old age he’s thinking of marrying a Nigerian child after killing the future of an Egyptian child? Enough is enough!

  • Odulate Albert

    Incredibly an unbias educative piece, my fear is also expressed from @Muhammed response, how many Muslima’s would doff thier hats and encourage themselves to first look at the piece as a way out of their misunderstanding to face a new pact and face a new reality, redeeming the Cultist attitude and embrace truth.


    we are toking about islamically not constitutional if it’s matter of con we no need to motioning islam, we are looking what the islamic teach basically acept, is already commendate


    pungent and well articulated points, she has spoken the mind of the majority of Nigerians. Her sincere and dispassionate analysis of the situation of child marriage in the north leaves much to be desired,this calls for a concerted effort on the part of well meaning northern elites and intelligentsia to step up campaign to stem the negative tide of child marriage in the north. God bless you ma ,for putting the matter in its proper perspective.

  • twotees

    What determines maturity? Is it intellect, or physiology i.e.menstruation ,or the environment? Our environment currently breeds children that mature so early, thanks to what they watch and hear on our radio channels. Personally i don’t give a hoot about some money-gulping , i-don’t-care politicians who only care about their pockets, but i care when Islam is being used by people as evidence for or against what they believe.Islam says the girl child is precious and must be cared for. A girl child is married early in Islam, i am not ashamed to say it.Her husband becomes her guardian and should see to her education . If some want to be selfish, and not educate her,that’s not Islam.educator

  • joe

    May god bless you ma, and your daughters, my anger is will yerima give out his own daughter for marriage at that age , or what kind of wickedness is this if it is proper for under age girls what about the boys he should also fight for them to get married at 12 or 13 what a shame

  • joe

    sorry mr Mustapha you are more a less a human being

  • Pantheraleo

    Very enlightening Uwais!
    We all know that education begins at the knees of a mother. A mother is responsible for a nation. If you do not educate a mother, you have failed to educate a nation.

    What we see in the north is as a result of the failure to educate a mother and we now have a vicious cycle of uneducated mothers who cannot educate their children from infancy not to mention as teenagers nor adults. They in turn spew forth more unfortunately ignorant children. Hence an ignorant nation is born. A vicious cycle. Don’t blame an impoverished father/mother who in their ignorance feels a child would be better off with a pervert just because he has financial means; a door of opportunity for the rest of the family. S/he knows no better!

    Educate the girl child before you marry her off. You would have educated a nation! Never underestimate the power of an educated mother!

  • I wish to thank all who have put in effort to address the issue of child marriage in debate. It is however worrisome that some contributors have deviated from weighing the intricacies associated with this early marriages rather draw conclusions on the basis of religious or geographic divide.

    As a matter of conscience, researches have shown that early marriages have brutally left these young girls suffering myriad damages which include VVF, complications at pregnancy, mental torture and many more( medical, psychological and economical)

    I do submit that we do owe this children a duty of care and I wonder why these so called senators who are elderly in their posture refuse to take responsibility. The society expected them to be fatherly in defense of the masses.

  • Mikail Ibn Jummaa Atolagbe

    Well written but not well researched. For instance, i began to wonder her appreciation of the Islam she professes when she said the muadithin should be isolated from making pronouncement. if this is her view, then who are the real salaf? The followers of the Prophet (saw). Was figh part of the Sahabas point of evidence? Marriage is not muámalat but an Ibadah. Hence, it is not an issue that can be treated with glove kid.
    I realise that she is an NGO lady which put pepper in my mouth. We cant continue to ape the west. Religiously, early marriage cannot be disputed but the question of the age. Maturity cannot be used as a yardstick too because it varies. hence, where we need a position or platform for the muadithun and the fuqaha to meet. Not these NGO ladies who are more of US stooge and booth leakers. Religoiusly, culturally, it cannot be denied. Mary gave birth to Jesus at such a tender age. Culturally, it is not an african thing but europe too did practised it and condone it. So, where is the civilisation or archaic in it? Let Us be Muslims…And if you do not want to be muslim, then be human enough with a good thnking. God still own this earth,a dn if He gives manual to our living, let us be civil enough to take or follow His manual, otherwise, it is an invitation to a fatal accident (Mikail)

  • bantan baushe

    yarima can’t politicize sharia, he doesn’t follow the footsteps of the prophet of Islam, if at all he is following why acquiring much wealth, building mansion, driving expensive cars? does Islam encourage acquiring wealth that u can’t account for? for those who are accusing him also how many girl child u help in acquiring knowledge? how many house help u have in ur various house? u also
    encourage tarrafic in persons and other related offences which is contrary to NAPTIP Law. kowane gauta ma jane.

  • isaa bn dawood

    A woman that does not put on the veil, an islamic hijaab, stands in my presence and forbids wat is permitted and permits wat is forbidden.
    Senator yarima clearly and surely is not the best example of a muslim to follow, but it is clear that he did not kidnap anybody and the girl is not an orphan she was given away by her parents and this is allowed as long as she herself is willing……….
    If that woman wants to question his actions from a social or political point of view then it is clear that it was her choice and if she considers the girl mature enuff to know wat she wants then she should know that her parent are not insane when they gave out thier daughter
    Also it is not news that vvf and rvf which results from delayed labour is a result of the poor health care system in the north which i believe is not the responsibility of these young girls or thier husbands, infact in other parts of the world where these disease are prevelant, they are directly linked to malnutrition and not age so someone shud pls tell madam uwais that if she wants the truth about these diseases medical experts should be consulted and not statisticians!
    but as far as the religious point of view is concerned madam uwais is not a scholar of islam and so should not not make presumptions of wat islam can or cannot allow….., furthermore a women who has little respect for her dressing and appearance by not puttin on the obligatory veil in a country where it is not even against the law to do so stands in our presence posing herself as a helpless lover of islam!!!!!?………, i find that most hypocritical…………,
    And like my brother rightly said in the comments before mine, marriage is ibadah, infact it is half the deen of a muslim, it should not be in anyway looked upon as trifle or considered jst as mu’amalat, ppl should know befor they speak!…. REALLY!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Lara Anuwe

    Fantastic and well thought-out. This is the best piece I have read in the “girl marriage” debate.
    Well done!

  • Abubakar Isa

    Isa BN Dawood. She is not Your wife and how she dresses shouldn’t concern U. Whether she wears a hijab or veil or whether she doesn’t cover is not your business. She has a husband and the husband is okay with how she looks every morning when she leaves home.
    Also, go and read and look at what she wrote. She never said she was a Scholar neither did she say she was a medical expert. She is basically relaying what medical experts have come up with. She is basing these findings on reports by medical experts That is what people of learned vision do.
    Now coming to what Yerima should do. He was a former Governor of Zamfara state. Zamfara state is the state that has the most destitute in this country. It has the worst case of child mortality. It has the worst cases of malnutrition only second to Yobe. What are U talking about!!? Zamfara has one of the lowest literacy rate In this country and it’s getting worse ’cause we have leaders like Yerima and People like U that can’t speak up. Instead U rather bring down a woman that dares to speak for womanhood and to also clear the air about Islam. What a waste U are.
    Who told U that they didn’t sell the gurl to him? How can U tell? Arab nation especially from small villages within them. A gurl is like a property incase U don’t know. Go to Yemen… For $10,000 u can get a man to part with his young daughter. Go and check before u come here making unfounded and unsubstantiated statements.
    Plse tell Yerima to explain his ill gotten wealth, what he did for Zamfara state as a Governor apart from cutting off people’s hands and praying on senseless people’s intelligence. He went to school so that he can lord over people and continue deceiving them with religion. You are part of the problem. If people like U cannot stand up and speak up against him then U are part of the problem of the north. Speak up against injustice and the unjust usage of Islam. Is it not un Islamic to deprive people of education, life, water, facilties of life? Come Isa? Surely U can do better. Get a life and stand up! Be a man and stop attacking this poor woman that is brave to stand up to defend Islam and womanhood.
    Be a man!! Do the right thing!!

  • Mariam Abdul-Samad

    Isa Bn Dawood,
    Please where are you from? Are you a Godly person or just plain religious? why i ask is ’cause you can be the most religious person on earth and yet not be Godly. Yerima is religious but not Godly.
    Now, Islam is perfect muslims are not. Try to understand this. I have read the things you have said here and haven’t seen anywhere you said anything about the things that are wrong with the North. You are basically are just trying to attack Maryam Uwais. I agree what Abubakar Isa said. She is learned and incase you don’t know her. She is a lawyer as well a principal partner in one of this country’s most prestigious law firm. Incase you don’t know her or don’t know anything about her. I will save you the stress and indulge you. Get ready: Look below;

    Admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1981


    Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State – LL. B Hons, (1980)
    Nigerian Law School, V.I Lagos – BL (1981)
    Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State – LL.M (1985)
    Nigerian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies – Certificate in Legal Drafting, 1989
    Nigerian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies- Certificate in Advanced Practice and Procedure, 1995
    College of Law, England and Wales – International Practice Diploma (IBA) in International Business Organisations, 2003-
    Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK) (2006)
    Postgraduate Diploma in Islamic Banking and Insurance (2009)

    Employment Record:

    Kano State Ministry of Justice (1980-1987)
    Nigerian Law Reform Commission (1988-1989)
    Central Bank of Nigeria, 1989-1998
    Principal Partner, Wali-Uwais & Co (2003-date)


    Council Member, Special Rapporteur, Rights of the Child, National Human Rights Commission (June 2000-2004 & 2005-2006), Nigeria;
    Member Bureau of Public Enterprises Steering Committee on Anti-Trust and Competition, Nigeria, (June 2011);
    Pioneer Director Leapafrica (2003-2006);
    Pioneer Member, Steering Committee, Commonwealth Education Fund (2002-2006)
    Selection Committee Member, MacArthur Foundation (2003 & 2004);
    Member, Consultative Committees on Justice Sector Reform (2003) and Legal Aid Reform (2004), Federal Ministry of Justice;
    Trustee, Youth Business Initiatives (2004-2008);
    Member, Board of Governors, Negotiation and Conflict Management Group (2004-2007);
    Member, Working Committee on Fiscal Responsibility Act for Nigeria (2004-2006);
    Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK); August, 2006);
    NBA Chair, Justice Sector Committee (Sept. 2006-June, 2007);
    Advisory Board Member, Nigeria Leadership Initiative (Jan. 2007);
    Board Member, Justice Research Institute Ltd Gte. (Oct, 2007);
    Trustee, Coalition Against Tobacco (Sept. 2007);
    Board Member, Women in Successful Careers Ltd Gte, (Oct. 2007);
    Coalition for Change (C4C): Member, Technical Committee of the Constitutional Reform Dialogue Mechanism (Dec. 2007); Gender and Affirmative Action (May 2008);
    Member African Union Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (July 2008);
    Member, NBA Capacity Building Committee (February 2009)
    Member, Securities and Exchange Commission Bonds Sub-Committee (January 2009);
    Member, Next Generation Task Force, Nigeria (December 2009);
    Founder and Chairperson, Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative Ltd Gte (December 2009);
    Member, Ministry of Finance Job Creation Committee – (July 2012 – November 2010)
    Trustee, Speakers Corners Trust – (August 2010)
    Advisory Board Member, Nigeria Women Trust Fund Ltd Gte – (March 2011)
    Member, NBA Gani SAN Award for Human Rights & Social Justice Selection Committee – (March 2011)
    Member, Presidential Advisory Council -(March 2010 – May 2011)
    Member, Thisday Editorial Board – (June 2011)
    Board Member, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc – (June 2011)
    Member, BPE Legal Technical Committee of National Council of Privatization (August 2011)
    Member, Kano State Government Almajirai Committee – (August 2011)
    Consultant to UNICEF, OSIWA, World Bank, DFID on various projects

    Core Practice Areas:

    Constitutional Law;
    Competition & Anti Trust,
    Banking & Insurance Law;
    Human Rights Law;
    Public Interest Litigation,
    Justice Sector Reform,
    Alternative Dispute Resolution;
    Mergers & Acquisition;
    Legislative Drafting;
    International Business Law;
    Family Law;
    Islamic Banking and Capital Market Operations.
    Membership of Professional Bodies:

    Nigerian Bar Association;
    International Bar Association;
    Association for Women’s Rights in Development;
    Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, UK;
    Associate Fellow of Institute for Islamic Banking & Insurance, UK.

    Languages Spoken:


    This is what men like you in the North don’t want. A woman to read and be successful. Allah will not allow your kind to have their way. You and the like’s of Yerima.

    Her husband and family are proud of her and we are proud to have her as our mother, friend and role model. We are proud to have a northern woman to have shocked everyone in this country with her excellent write up and insight of the Nigerian constitution and her own little knowledge of islamic jurisprudence. She never claimed to be a Scholar.

    You should be ashamed of yourself for trying to bring her down. This is the month of Ramadan so I won’t waste words on you. I only ask that you go and see what you can do for your immediate community before you start bringing insults and your non informed write ups.

    Go and see what you can do for all the Almajiri’s, the uneducated youths, the girls who are being married of unjustly without any form of help or assistance on how to take care of themselves. What have you done in your area?

    Please tell Yerima and the likes of his paedophilic friends to find another way to hide under their sick cravings. It is un islamic what they are doing.
    Yes! I am a muslim from Kaduna and i say Islam is a perfect religion. You and Yerima as muslims are not.

    Allahu Akbar!!

  • Aisha Yakubu

    Isa Bn Dawood,

    Some questions that are begging answers since you are interested in bringing our sister down.

    1-Can you answer why our Sharia Senator is collecting jumbo Salaries over 20M naira a month when his constituency wallow in abject poverty?

    2-Can you answer why our Sharia Senator has houses everywhere? Can he explain the source of this wealth when we know he has no business?

    3-Is it not un islamic to have all this things and still be in the Senate collecting money not earned? is it not un islamic?

    Please answer these questions or forever hide your head in shame for attacking this woman.

  • Ismaila Uwais

    Yerima is a goat and a fool. He knows nothing about Islam.

    All northern leaders that allow him to divert and bring unnecessary bad publicity and unwanted to attention to issues that are of no importance to the north should be ashamed of themselves.

    The elites, Emirs, District leaders, and all northern men are the problem for not rising up and stepping up the the challenge of shutting this Mumu up and trying to address the decay in the north.

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