Women and family size

Popular Yoruba saying “ọmọ bẹẹrẹ, òsì bẹẹrẹ” (plenty of children = endless poverty).

What I take from my upbringing is that it is important that women take the active role in deciding the number of children they bring to this world.

I recently read about Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi’s new project to be unveiled soon about a bill that he hopes to incorporate into Islamic law to protect women and children. The idea is to get the bill passed into law in Kano then to the wider northern parts of the country.

Emir of Kano is by far more pleasant to listen to compared to many of our public figures – to agree with his reasoning is a different matter altogether.

The one that has Nigerians talking is highlighted:

“Those of us in the [mainly Muslim] north have all seen the economic consequences of men who are not capable of maintaining one wife, marrying four. They end up producing 20 children, not educating them, leaving them on the streets, and they end up as thugs and terrorists.”

Emir wants to make it illegal for poor men practice polygamy. That sounds great but it takes two produce a child?  What about women? Where do they come in this new polygamy restriction bill? When are we going to start talking about women as integral part of a relationship?

I believe the need to teach from young age that a woman owes it to herself and future to have a figure in mind – rough idea so when she grows up she will already have people in the community to copy.

As my mother likes to say, wọn kii ta ọmọ l’ọja (you can’t exchange a child for money).

Northern part of Nigeria has highest rate of divorce than the southern parts because it is Islamic law allows it and next month, you’re back in the customary court to marry another woman to top up the number and in the case of a woman, there is enormous pressure to not be single even if at 40yrs old with 6 children from 3 different fathers.

Emir of Kano likes to play to the gallery, in the same Kano they spend millions of naira on mass wedding almost every year. The latest is last year August for over 4000 people most if not all were divorcees and top-up masters – all done with pride.

Oh well, since Emir himself has four wives, the fourth was two years ago when the lady turned 18 – the way I see this is that he could not believe poor people are ‘enjoying’ the juicy life of wife options so he wants to criminalise those who dare have similar pleasure as himself. Too bad.

If he is really keen about sensitivity to population and rise in criminal numbers, then make women also be cautious of the number of children they have and divert the fund for mass marriage to clearing up the streets of Almajiri.

Thinking about this reminds me of the proposed Gender Equality and Opportunity bill that came to light last year, after all the edits, it is now shelved for reason best known to the senate.

Sultan of Sokoto wastes no time to make known his opinion on the bill, he can’t stand the thought that women deserve equal inheritance as men.

Emir of Kano is more diplomatic, he is not facing the whole of Nigeria, instead, he maintains his bill is for the north. However, looking at this sentence credited to him makes me think, he is going to draft a bill, get it passed in the north by which time it will be a lot easier to pass into law nationally. This is how we ended up with…

… Sharia law in our constitution.

“It is a big law which covers a whole range of issues from consent to marriage, to maintenance to divorce, to maintenance of children and inheritance. It will be the first time in northern Nigeria that a Muslim law on personal status will be codified.” Emir Lamido Sanusi.

I read a piece on Vanguard newspaper that says:

“…among the Yoruba in the South-West and some parts of the South-South, women don’t inherit as wives because they believe inheritance should be by blood. Daughters and sons inherit equally in Yoruba land. 

This statement is not true especially when it comes to land inheritance. It only happens when the women fight hard for it, most people just walk away.

In the south, we have Obas of various degrees, from Imperial, second class to Obi, Igwes and many more titles – why are our traditional rulers in the south mute on GEO bill?

Will it be too much to ask that royals in the south too are expected to lend their voices on issues that matter? Or is it the case of complicity in silence?