A Fresh Look at the Nigerian laws And Cultures.
Many true life child abandonment scenarios:
A new born baby is found abandoned in the bush.
A new born baby is found dead in an old pit toilet.
A new born baby wrapped in a leather bag and dropped off on the road is crushed to death by a vehicle.
A new born baby’s skeleton is discovered in a refuse dump after it had been burnt to death.
A new born baby is discovered in front of a house; hungry and diseased.
All countries in the world have laws guiding different aspects of their lives and most times, the collective beliefs and cultures of the people play a dominant role in the kind of laws that would be put in place.
The laws guiding a country in Asia cannot guide Nigeria successfully and this brings us to our laws on abortion. The Wikipedia defines abortion as ‘the termination of a pregnancy by the termination or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus/embryo resulting in or caused by its death…’
The issue of abortion has long being the issue of very long and tedious debates all over the world. This is hardly surprising as human life is at stake in the case of abortion.
In Nigeria, abortion is prohibited under the penal and criminal codes and carries a heavy jail term of up to 14years unless it was performed to save the life of a woman but that has not even come close to preventing abortion and its attendant problems in Nigeria. Unsafe abortion for instance, is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in Nigeria, accounting for 30-40% of maternal deaths (Okonofua FE, Odimegwu E. “Assessing the Prevalence and Determinants of Unwanted Pregnancy in Nigeria”. 1999). This has not reduced the rate of abortion in Nigeria which is 23 per 1000 women aged 15-44 years and is about 610,000 pregnancy terminations annually (Henshaw S.K, Singh.S “The Incidence of Induced Abortion in Nigeria”. 1998.) and about 60% of these terminations are still done by unskilled practitioners (Adewole I.F, Oye- Adeniran B.A… “Contraceptive Usage among Abortion Seekers in Nigeria”. 2002).
What do all these figures boil down to? Abortion continues to grow despite the legal, the moral, the societal and the health implications. Any other crime could get a pass mark but not the crimes against children. This would certainly gain no pass mark with any sane person. The growing rate of infant mortality and morbidity as a result of abandonment should call to question the penal and criminal codes against the legalization of abortion in Nigeria. The fact that the Nigerian peoples and cultures are yet to be tolerant towards single mothers call for a desperate need for compromise.
The stories of abandoned children abound but there’s no one to tell the stories of their mothers who bear the brunt of the society’s total indifference and humiliation. ‘It takes two to tangle’ hasn’t helped the case of the Nigerian single mother as she is treated like the ‘adulterous woman’; dragged before Jesus without her partner. The now single mother raises a ‘bastard’ against the jeers and laughs of her neighbourhood.
How then would many women not opt for an abortion, no matter how unsafe?
The conscience of the society would be better assuaged if it ‘sees no evil and hears no evil’ and the ladies who opt for abortions would live with their own conscience as well and this would not have to be a national epidemic anymore as child abandonment would be greatly reduced and the deaths of these children on the highways, pits, incinerators, bushes and even outright murders would become a thing of the past.
The school curriculum needs to have a healthy dose of culture education which teaches the morals and values of its people. Education is one of the greatest fighting tools in man’s arsenal. When the educational system is properly spiced with a conscious and practical knowledge of the lifestyle of its people then, the growing generation would have a lot to respect. Also, sex education at all levels should be encouraged so that where sex education is not taught in the home; it could be taught in the schools. It should be taught at the discretion of the school authorities as the dangers in not making this kind of knowledge available to the students are much greater than not… no matter the moral and societal argument in favour of the opposite.
Welfare schemes need to be developed by the government (as we all know that poverty and ignorance are the culprits at the heart of moral decadence) to provide for, as well as take care of the poverty ridden areas which creates room for people to throw away every form of decorum and ‘set their morals on the loose’.
The media should be more sensitized to eschew materials that glorify sexual escapades without any form of censorship.
The average educated Nigerian is greatly influenced by the West especially America but, we need to understand that America has no culture to speak of. It is a country of laws. The argument here is this- the law is binding on the intellects of a people while culture is binding on their morals. The law reacts with a sentence to be served while culture reacts on the conscience. The law already knows it must be broken but the culture reminds the people of the coming generation and demands a legacy.
But, what we might learn from America if we so wish is the understanding of its supreme court which ruled in 1973 that a woman and her doctor could freely terminate a pregnancy in its first trimester (if the woman so wishes). This kind of law should be considered in Nigeria if the mother insists rather than have these children suffer cruelty and death.
On the other hand, mothers and teenagers should have easy and cheap access to counseling whether pregnancy is to be kept or terminated. These would go a long way in promoting healthy relationships and a healthier society.
There is no easy way out of this debate but, a stiff ban on abortion as is the case in Nigeria should be tampered with mercy for the sake of these babies that would be ‘thrown away’ and for the sake of the society.
Welcome to my blog; Adaobiokwy.wordpress.com