The age of consent in Nigeria has been among the lowest if not the lowest one in the world for the recent three years already. After the Senate decision accepted in 2015, the age of consent has dropped dramatically. Let’s take a look at the matter in detail.
What is the age of consent?
This is the age when males and females are supposed to be able to give their consent for having an intimate intercourse. Up to 2015, the official consent age in Nigeria was 18 years. This rule was not a general one since different states had their own points of view on the matter. In 2015, the Senate accepted about 40 laws at once and among those there was a law about the reduction of marriageable age to 12 years. However, in some cases, this is not applicable.
There are certain systems of traditional marriage within Nigeria and in some of them child brides aging 12 to 14 are treated like adult ones. In some regions of Nigeria it was normal for brides to be only 10. However, in such cases, the consummation of the marriage happened only after the girl reached a normal adult age.
In Muslim regions of the country marriages are executed in accordance with the Islamic law. Brides can be 10 years old and there are no restrictions for marrying them. It happens often that adult men marry little girls and their parents don’t mind because they simply can’t make ends meet and have no means to feed their little daughters any time longer.
One of the Nigerian senators, a former governor, had two child brides, aging 13 and 15. There are no guarantees that child brides in Nigeria will be treated with such respect and carefulness. What’s more, it’s quite hard to track all the marriages that are taken in rural lands far away from the controlling institutions and child brides often suffer a lot from such marriages.
By law, adult males in Nigeria can marry girls from 12 years above. Intimate physical contacts in this situation cannot be termed illegal, however, there are exemptions to this. For instance, if the marriage was not approved by the girls parents or the girl was kidnapped and married forcefully, etc.
Besides, the marriage situation explained above, Nigeria's widely accepted age of consent is 18.
It’s necessary to say that the society criticized the new regulation at once. As newspapers said, children at the age of 11 often don’t even know exactly which of their hands is right or left, no need to say that they have no idea about the intimate contacts between men and women. Most girls are far from being physically ready for such contacts at the age of 11 and can hardly tell what these contacts are.
Close-in-age exemption and the age of consent in Nigeria
It’s interesting that there is no close-in-age exemption in Nigeria. What does it mean? In most countries where such a law exists it means that in case a male and a female conduct an intimate intercourse and one of them is under the age of consent, the other one is not punished severely providing this one is of the same age or a little older.
In simpler words, if the age of consent is 16, a boy of 17 will not be punished as a violator for an intimate contact with a girl of 15. In Nigeria, in case a boy does such with a girl under the age of consent, he will be punished as a violator, no matter even if he is under that age, too. Of course, with the current level of being only 11 of age such situations are rare but such a regulation really exists.
What’s the age of consent in the world?
let’s take a look at the age of consent in different parts of the globe.
- In Europe, the lowest age of consent is 14 in a range of countries but in most of them it’s 16. In Turkey and Malta teenagers are considered to be able to give their consent for intimate contacts only at the age of 18
- In the USA, different states have it between 16 and 18. They have the mentioned exemption that means no criminal responsibility for teenagers under that age who decide to have contacts with each other.
- In Africa, age of consent is majorly 16. In some countries like Sudan or Liberia, it’s necessary to be married to have intimate contacts with another person in any possible cases
- In Asia, Korean people have the strictest law against occasional intimate contacts between teens so they allow their people to have such contacts only after they turn 20. Japanese laws, on the contrary, are the most liberal and allow teens to have intimate contacts at 13 only. In Oceania and Australia, the age of consent is 16. Only in Tasmania it makes 18 years of age
- In the Middle East, Bahrain has the highest threshold in the whole world, which makes 21 years. The majority of countries in the Middle East have this same rule: the two who are having a physical contact must be married. In the rest, the age of consent varies between 16 and 18
- In some countries of the South America, the lowest consent age is 14 for all genders except for Paraguay where it’s allowed to have physical contacts since 14 for couples of different genders and since 16 for same-gender pairs. In the rest of countries of this part of the world, the age of consent reaches 18
So, as we can see, the current state of things is rather controversial and still needs working upon it in order not to leave Nigerian children out of protection of the law.