It’s what many of us would see as a nightmare, that at 14-years-old to be married off to an older man who your parents have chosen for you but for Wasila Tasi’u and other girls from areas like Kano State in Nigeria this is very much a part of their reality.
Wasila Tasi’u was selected as the second wife for her 35-year-old husband by her parents in the deeply conservative Muslim region. According to Sharia Law which is accepted in Kano State, men are allowed to marry young girls and polygamy is common, so community members in Tasi’u’s region do not find her predicament rare.
Wasila had to sign the police affidavit with a fingerprint as she was illiterate, her statement also had to be translated as she cannot speak English. After Wasila statement, her ‘co-wife’, Ramatu spoke about their arrangement, that she and Wasila had a good relationship and as it was Wasila’s turn to have sex with the husband she had to bring him his food, which resulted in her poisoning him with rat poison.
Many have cried that Wasila has been a victim in the situation, as her marriage was against her will and could be construed as rape, but the relatives of her husband and members of the community have rebuked this. Wasila could face the death penalty under Sharia Law.
Yes, it is true that Wasila committed murder, and she confesses to it so we know that there is no two ways about it. But it says a lot that she did this not long after the marriage took place and on the day she was due to have sex with him, which largely points to the fact that she was dreading repeating the act. Putting the story into context, much of what Wasila was doing was an attempt to actively get out of a situation that she was unhappy in, her parents were the ones who forced her into the marriage, her entire community saw nothing wrong with the situation, she cannot read or write, and for a young girl to commit a crime like this which she had to know was against Islamic law and would probably equal punishment she had to be desperate, if not just to not have to have sex with the older man.
Traditions and customs are important, and something that should be respected but when it comes at the expense of the education of young people, of the disrespect of their consent and when young women are forced to perpetuate rules and customs whereby only men benefit, it needs to be questioned. Wasila is the voice of many child brides who lived their lives unhappy in order to appease their parents, the community, their law, the men they were forced to marry and were not able to hope for more for their lives, to learn, to choose their own paths. This might have been the order of the day years ago but now is the time that things change so that there are no more Wasila’s who commit serious crimes such as murder just so they can be free.
Reference: News24 Nigeria