Vesico Vaginal Fistula and high divorce rate in northern Nigeria

ImageDuring the just concluded Nigeria National Conference (Confab) one issue that was raised was the motion against high divorce rate in the north of Nigeria.

What we know:

– As it stands today  80% of marriage ceremonies in Kano end up in divorce and it is common to see a 40-year-old man who has gone through  six divorces or even more. Domestic violence in the north is reportedly above national average.

– Men can legally divorce their wives regardless of how many children in previous relationships. No enforcement of welfare support for the children left behind.

– As at 2012, 800,000 women divorcees registered for NGO advocating for better treatment for divorced women also pleaded for government intervention as their husband were very quick to walk away from marriage with simple disagreements that can be easily solved.

What we know but shy away from discussing:

– As at 2009, studies conducted in Kano and Kaduna showed 200,000 women are living with RVF and VVF – limited health care to help with both emotional and medical treatment. This condition can be corrected with surgery. The number is significantly higher than the rest of the country combined.

Vesico Vagina Fistula (VVF) – “Vesico vaginal Fistula, or VVF, is an abnormal fistulous tract extending between the bladder (or vesico) and the vagina that allows the continuous involuntary discharge of urine into the vaginal vault.” Wiki.

A condition associated with childbirth caused by prolonged labour.

Rectovaginal fistula  (RVF)” is a medical condition where there is a fistula or abnormal connection between the rectum and the vagina.” Wiki.

Culturally, polygamous is common in Nigeria across all faiths more so for Islamic faith and traditionalists, a bit lower rate for christians. Not all muslims in the south have multiple wives, in fact most in my village only have one wife and for those that enjoy “varieties” rather than divorcing because of trivial issues, they just move along to marry second, third or forth wife – life is a bliss!

So why do we have high rate of divorce in the north despite the perks of multiple wives that is socially and religiously acceptable? Many argue that it is because of the high rate of divorce that led many young male adults to join Boko Haram insurgency as they were already on the streets – the sense of belonging to a group gives them much-needed excitement about life purpose.

What we know but not talking about and why divorce rate in the north will continue until we find solutions to the fundamental factors leading men to walk away form their marriage.

Islamic religion allows men to marry girls as young as 7 years old, although this age is frowned upon but many still do it. Men are not supposed to consummate the marriage until the girl reaches puberty (10 -11) but the new husband (can be 4times bride’s age) is in full control of what he does to the girl from the day her family agreed to give away the child. A friend who has travelled extensively in the north said the emphasis is on keeping the girls hymen intact until puberty, according to him many do have anal sex with little girls – (irony of Nigeria homosexuality law)

The most popular case of child-bride was Nigeria Senator Yarima who defended his marriage to a 13 years old girl using a passage in the Nigeria Constitution – We yelled, tweeted –  he is still married to the girl and nothing happened. Senator Yarima was 50 years old and the child-bride 13 at the time of marriage in 2010.

When married off early, by the time a child reaches 12 or 13 she is ready to have her first child. According to studies, VVF occurs during the birth of first child. There is a direct correlation between VVF, RVF and high rate of divorce in the north.

I can not begin to imagine the self-loathing this has caused women in this situation. Divorce in itself is enough heart-breaking, dealing with intimidation of being rejected because of VVF and RVF is a whole other story especially when it is coming for the person who contributed to the problem.

In a way, I can see northern men points though, if you were young and sexually active, who really wants to be with a wife/partner whose body you find revolting? Maybe the right law to enforce should be No Child Bride rather than attacking the symptoms – divorce rate.