CHILD MARRIAGE � NIGERIA�S OTHER SCOURGE
Jun. 30 (GIN) � Nearly 300 school-age girls are still in the hands of Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group, but they�re not the only group of young women yanked from school against their will and made to work at the beck and call of husbands they did not choose. A new expos� rips Nigeria for its record number of child brides � some as young as 9.
According to the U.N. Population Fund, Nigeria has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world.
Even a federal senator has openly wed five child brides, including a 14-year-old Egyptian when he was 49. When she reached 17 with a child he divorced her to marry a new wife said to be just 15.
The custom of child marriage continues to be the informal law of the land despite a �Child Rights Act� passed in 2003, which raised the minimum age of consent, and thus of marriage, to 18 for girls.
The lower the age of marriage, a study of Demographic and Health data found, the greater the risk of domestic violence. One such case was spotlighted in a recent news story that was carried widely. Maimuna Abdullahi of Kano, northern Nigeria, married off at 14, had objected to having to drop out of school for a long day of chores for her husband, 28, and his family. Their response was to beat her so severely that her jaw was almost broken and her back was covered with welts.
A year later, she was divorced by her husband but was saved from homelessness and sex trafficking by the privately-funded Tattalli Free School for divorced girls. The director, Saadatu Aliyu, commented: �Nobody knows how many thousands of them there are� That�s why we have so many prostitutes, and very young ones, in the north.�
Last year, the Nigerian Senate voted to consider underage married girls as �adults� but to their surprise, prominent Nigerians and human right organizations took to the social media to protest what they described as legalization of sexual abuse of barely pubescent girls.
Protests were held in parts of the country and petitions were signed to protest the law. On Twitter, several petition handles were created such as #childnotbride and #MaryamUwais � a self-described �troublemaker� and legal advocate for women�s rights.
Former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, wrote: "I got married at 24, after my first post-graduate. Some think 24 is early but then, I was ready to make sound decisions."
Nollywood actor, Nonso Diobi, said: "If she can't vote, then she can't marry. A female child should be taken to the classroom, not labor room." Broadcaster Mo Abudu, shared her concerns, saying, "My heart is broken by the news from the Senate on #ChildBrides. This is not the Africa of 2013."
Star reggae artiste, Majek Fashek, chimed in: "How can a man of 40, 50 or over marry a girl of 12, 13yrs? What kind of pedophilia is this?"
Meanwhile, Maimuna�s former husband, is looking for a 12 year old girl who, he says, will be more compliant. He blames Maimuna�s few years of school for her disobedience.
�She had too much ABCD,� he says. �Too much ABCD.� w/pix of Maimuna Abdullahi
NIGERIAN COMIC TURNS ON FANS OVER OFFENDING RAPE JOKE
Jun. 30 (GIN) � A popular Nigerian comic is losing fans fast as he goes on the attack over a rape joke that fell flat.
The joke sparked an exodus of fans who abandoned the comedian Bright Okpocha aka Basketmouth but not before leaving a long trail of negative tweets and other unforgiving critiques.
"Show me a man who is insensitive to rape and I'll show you a man who is capable of rape&whatever," tweeted the Nigerian novelist Chika Unigwe.
Basketmouth came under fire for posting a joke about the difference between dating "white girls" and "African girls". In a nutshell, white women are willing after a couple of dates, but African women keep holding out, so on the ninth date a bit of rape is required.
Most Nigerian and other African commentators failed to find the humor when the country is suffering from an epidemic of sexual violence.
Basketmouth�s defenders dismissed those who criticized him as over-sensitive, humorless, or just missing the satirical point.
Finally, he issued an apology of sorts: "I would never in a thousand lifetimes encourage rape, I broadcasted a joke that many clearly misunderstood and have found offensive and I sincerely apologize, the intention however was to highlight an unfortunate trend.�
Basketmouth is just one in a score of stand-up comedians to use the rape of women as a subject for a cheap laugh, observed Rachel Hamada for the blog �This is Africa� on the Guardian Africa Network. �He's the big goofy team mascot for those Nigerian men who think women are teases and there for the taking. #basketmouthgate opened up a whole debate about the subject of rape in Nigeria and beyond.�
She cited a tweet by writer Elnathan John: "There is a reason Basketmouth makes so many people laugh with female rape jokes. We condone it. It is not yet a big deal here� All rape is abominable, but I tell you if men got raped as often as women, there would be no celebration of rape jokes."
Another post on Twitter: "From an early age girls are taught to view themselves from the negatives that are heaped on them because men rape. It is girls' fault that men are depraved. We teach them not to walk alone after dark, not to be alone with boys, to wear 'decent clothes. Yet after all this, many are still raped. Why is that, Mr Basketmouth? BECAUSE BOYS AND MEN ARE NOT BEING TAUGHT THAT RAPE IS NOT A JOKE!"
After a year of stinging comments, the renowned comic last week rebuked his Nigerian fans and referred to them as "hypocrites who cannot even understand a joke." In an interview with Nigeriafilms, he called them �hypocrites.�
�The thing is, it's a joke. I crack jokes about my own death, do you understand, and people laugh about my own death, it's just a joke. Let's grow beyond this. Definitely, I'm not going to crack a joke about rape again, I shouldn't even be saying the word. I've learnt my lesson, but we shouldn't have limits. So I'm looking for another controversy, though not that type."
However, he boasted that the scandal helped him sell tickets for an upcoming show in the UK, where 600 people were willing to shell out $100 just to visit the show. w/pix of B. Okpocha
BLACK SOUTH AFRICANS GET NEW CHANCE TO SEEK REDRESS FOR STOLEN LAND
Jun. 30 (GIN) - South Africa will restart the claims process that provides compensation to black families who were illegally removed from their land during white rule. The window for those claims had been shut 16 years ago.
In a published statement, President Jacob Zuma assented to the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act, which among other things reopens the period to make a claim for those who missed the previous deadline of Dec. 31, 1998.
The original Restitution act, passed by Nelson Mandela, set up a Land Claims Commission and a Land Claims Court to buy or expropriate land and return it to the claimants. The Act was strongly opposed by the right-wing Freedom Front, the Inkatha Freedom Party and the South African Agricultural Union.
The process will run for five years starting from June 30, 2014, the statement said.
There are an estimated 397 000 valid restitution claims for apartheid-era forced removals. Only about 80,000 claims were filed by the 1998 deadline, although 3.5 million people had been forcibly evicted from their land or otherwise shifted to the homelands during the apartheid era; and about 4 million people had lost land under �betterment� schemes.
The amendment bill would also allow for claims by the Khoi and San people who were evicted even before the 1913 Native Land Act. The amendments extend the window period for lodging claims to June 18, 2018.
In an editorial by Tshepo Diale, a banker, in the Independent On Line (iol.co.za) Business Report, Diale wrote: �The commitment to return land to rightful owners as enshrined in the constitution should outweigh any other factor. The establishment of the office of the valuer-general, whose role will be to evaluate land and farms, will offer a much-needed reprieve in lengthy negotiations over price.
�Returning land to rightful owners is not enough to address poverty. The restoration of dignity through ownership alone, when the land is not productive, yields nothing.
�Pockets of success have begun to emerge as the government moves to recapitalize and assist in the development of farms left fallow. However, these lessons will have to be implemented at lightning speed for the true fruits of the land to be realized by the new owners.
�If we have no land to live on, we can be no people.�
The restitution act follows a new proposal by the Land Affairs Ministry which would give farmworkers 50 percent of land on which they are employed. The �historical owner� of the farm �automatically retains� the other half. The government will compensate the �historical owner� for the share given to workers.
Opposition to the policy came quickly from white farm owners at the AfriBusiness Property Rights Conference in Pretoria who this month launched a campaign with the goal of defeating the government program. It was called �ill-considered by Agri SA, one of the largest farmers� unions.
But the Lands minister hit back saying: "We have been bending over backwards as black people, particularly African people... It is time that all of us took responsibility for progress... for South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white".
AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT HEARS CALL TO REVIEW RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WEST
Jun. 30 (GIN) � At a summit last week of African heads of state, the president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea strongly rebuked western countries for �interfering� in Africa, and urged leaders to end economic dependence on the West.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema, hosting a two-day summit of the 54-nation African Union, said a post-colonial relationship of unequals was holding back the continent from sustainable development.
The 72-year-old president is Africa's longest serving head of state after overthrowing his uncle in a 1979 coup. The country has seen an economic boom since offshore oil was discovered in the mid-1990s.
With a population of less than 800,000 people, the former Spanish colony is Africa's No. 3 energy producer behind Nigeria and Angola. Oil companies with familiar names like ExxonMobil and Marathon Oil are working there.
While Equatorial Guinea boasts a GDP per capita on par with Saudi Arabia and higher than Portugal, international aid agencies and rights groups point to a wide wealth gap between the ruling elite and the country's poor majority.
Towering new offices and residential blocks - often built by Chinese or Arab construction firms - are springing up around the verdant island capital Malabo, though many citizens still live in tin-roofed homes.
Critics of the government in the diaspora took the opportunity of the summit to urge global leaders to press Pres. Obiang on the country�s human rights record.
Tutu Alicante, an Equatoguinean lawyer who heads EG Justice from exile in the U.S., cited the current government�s �misrule.� The visiting leaders, he said, should urge Pres. Obiang �to stop targeting activists and others who speak out against him.�
Meanwhile, with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy looking on, Obiang criticized the pricing of natural resources and the "barriers to international trade" as examples of Western domination of Africa.
He also criticized the exchange rate of the CFA franc used by 14 countries in West and Central Africa, including Equatorial Guinea, as being fixed too low against the euro.
"Africa is engaged in a process of democratic progress which is irreversible and adjusted to African realities, and it should not allow foreign meddling," he said.
To applause from fellow heads of state, Obiang called for an overhaul of the United Nations system "so that it no longer serves as a support for some countries to legalize their agenda of meddling".
He also criticized the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for facilitating "the monopolies of the world economy".
The summit was intended to focus on agriculture investment and reducing the incidence of hunger across Africa. Pledges to spend 10 percent of national budgets on agriculture have not been met since the commitment was made in 2003. As a whole, the continent barely surpassed 4 percent each year with the exception of Malawi, Mali, Niger and Senegal.
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