The Curse of Double Standards (Part 2)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

In the first part of this post, I shared my musings on the controversial (but non-existent) "Child Marriage" law, and the double standards being applied in the society with regards to the said law. The focus of the first part was on the silence on the rights of children and non-discussion on their protection, whereas much ruckus has been raised over a the non-existence of a child marriage law. (For a more comprehensive recap, please read the first part of this post.)

The second incidence of double standards which the hyberbolic activity on the 'offending' law brings to my mind is the perception of and expectation from males and females in the Nigerian society.While female equality to their male counter-parts has been contemplated in recent times in, I honestly think that this is mere lip-service. To all intents and purposes, the role of the Nigerian woman (and I dare to say, African woman) is still in the dark ages. Here, the girl is suddenly transformed into a woman by marriage, as against the male counterpart who grown into adulthood, and only attains such upon achievement of certain milestones. 

The law unfortunately, but realistically, still embodies the present-day values system in the country which presumes that the Nigerian woman has no long-term career goal. Rather, she is defined by marriage. Her 'achievements' are summed up in her ability to have the prefix 'Mrs.' added to her name, rather than who she really is. It matters not if she is a Professor in the planet Venus, or discovered the cure to cancer and labour pain. If she's unmarried, the respect she is given is little more than the respect given to a fifteen year old. And even that is taken away if perchance, the fifteen year old attains 'adulthood' by virtue of marriage, while she in her forties, with all her accomplishments remains unmarried.

Now, everyone has been seen to read the riots' act to the National Assembly for the existence of the law. But in truth, almost everyone's psyche somehow doesn't place the Nigerian woman on the same footing with her male counterpart if not married. And therein lies the double standards: why should it be only a woman who attains adulthood upon marriage? Why should the same standard for measuring 'maturity' not be applied to men as well? In any case, who says marriage in itself is what imbues one with maturity, and suddenly transforms a child into an adult? Should the reverse not be the case? The problem is not the law. Rather, the problem is with the values system. The law simply represents what the people are thinking but not saying. To this extent (and this extent alone), I applaud Senator Yerima for his candidness in voicing his side with the law that upon marriage, a child becomes a woman. For that is what the society we live in promotes, and he is simply stating the fact.

The final instance of double standards which this issue brings to my mind is a rather touchy issue in Nigeria. In 2013, the National Assembly passed a law prohibiting amorous relationships between people of the same sex. (What would consist of ‘amorous’ is undefined ut that is discussion for another day). However, there is no similiar law creating sanctions for persons who engage in amorous relationships with minors i.e. persons less than 18 years.

In my musings, I wondered; can minors be validly argued to have 'consented' to any such relationship with an adult? I doubt this, because they are not developed enough to understand the ramifications of such relationships and/or the concept of choice, albeit exercise such. In the case of marriage, this 'choice' is exercised on their behalf by parents. And once parental consent is obtained, the marriage is backed with the full force of law. In the absence of such consent, the marriage is at worst voidable, but not illegal. Therefore, consent of the minor in any case is inconsequential.

So I ask; why should two consenting adults who choose to exercise their freedom of association in associating with people of the same sex alone be made criminals, wherein adults who engage in sexual acts with minors incapable of validly giving consent are not similarly prescribed with criminal sanctions? I am neither advocating for gay rights, nor condemning gays. I just find it disturbing that liaison between consenting adults of the same sex result in criminal sanctions, whereas a similar relationship between an adult and a non-consenting minor be allowed to thrive without equal sanctions.

Alas, I foresee compelling arguments justifying this double-standard. Similar to the issue of child labour, recourse will be made to religion and/or culture as necessitating this abnormality. And therein lies my perspective regarding the role of double standards in ensuring the survival of the controversial law. Everyone seems to be crying 'Wolf' on a law with little or no consequence, without discussing more significant underlying issues. Double standards are conveniently applied to suit the convenience of a larger or more dominant part of the society, and lip-service is paid to human rights, while 'activism' is in truth utilised for self-serving purposes. In instances where there is need for action, it appear there is an actual unspoken code of silence on real issues.

My view is that until these underlying issues are dealt with, and double standards gradually eroded from our values system, all dust raised from time to time regarding what the leaders are doing will end up as what it is right now: mere talk. In the meantime, the talk provides fodder for my mind to chew on, and I have shared my own perspective. Don't hesitate to share yours. Paz.

Meg.

 Disclaimer: The pictures used do not belong to me, but are taken from Google.

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