Analysis · Islam · Marriage · Nigeria · Opinion · Religion & Spirituality

On Kano’s proposed marriage reform

The recent Kano state government proposed initiative to help one thousand divorcees and widows remarry is quite commendable, particularly as it is meant to launch a gradual but sustained exercise aimed at curbing the alarming population of widows and divorcees in the state. Perhaps even more commendable also is the proposal which seeks to limit the pervasive phenomenon of marriage failure in the state.

According to its Hisbah commission, there are over one million divorcees in the state, and 75% of the cases of prostitution and drug abuse are found amongst divorcees, orphans and victims of broken homes.

By all standards these figures are very frightening and they could still be mere conservative estimates anyway in view of the shocking rates of divorce in the state and indeed amongst Hausa-Fulani communities in general.

This explain why a couple of years ago, according to an NGO, Kano recorded the highest rate of divorce cases in the federation, which it still probably maintains even if it is not actually the worst (or at least among the worst) in the whole world also. Interestingly enough, Kano seems to hold on to its “tumbin giwa” status, where “kodame kazo anfika” even in marriage failure. 

Though I don’t have substantive figures yet from sheer experience and exposure to the general attitudes towards wives in Kano (being a son of the soil also), I can confirm that husbands abuse their marital responsibilities much worse than the other way around. And I believe the same is obtained elsewhere amongst Hausa-Fulani communities.

Therefore in as much as such proposals are good, I implore the stakeholders to focus more on how to curb that pervasive rates of divorce in the state in the first place. I actually wonder how many marriages might have failed from the date of announcing this proposal. After all, no sooner had I excitedly broken that news to somebody than she warned that, unless it is followed up with stringent measures also, over 90% of the marriages would fail by next year.

In any case the main focus should be on making appropriate laws to properly regulate marriage contracts as well as the process of divorce in order to protect the rights of the couples, even though in this particular context the rights of the wives should be prioritized being relatively more vulnerable.

For instance the laws should include a standard marriage draft contract and make it compulsory to be adopted and duly solemnized in all marriage contracts in the appropriate courts of law. Also it should provide for further conditions to be included in the marriage contract, which the couples could agree upon, of course without prejudice to the standard marriage conditions, rules and regulations.

For instance, the bride- to-be should be particularly educated about her rights as guaranteed by Islam to -for instance- demand for the inclusion of some extra conditions in the marriage contract, which will further guarantee her rights particularly in the event of divorce or husband’s death.

She can for example demand for the inclusion of the concept of “Mu’akharus-sadaaq” in the marriage contract. Interestingly, under the provision of “Mu’akharus-sadaaq” she can voluntarily choose to delay her claim of a portion of her dowry until after the death of the husband or in case of divorce.

Incidentally “Mu’akharus-sadaaq” is more or less a guarantee that even if the husband divorces her or dies, she will get a sufficient fallback that will protect her from being a liability on anybody or going destitute for that matter. This explains why it i.e. “Mu’akharus-sadaaq” should be significant enough and could be much more than the portion of the dowry actually paid. As a matter of fact, it is better to offer it in assets e.g. gold instead of cash due to currency volatility.

Anyway, the law should also regulate and enforce the provision of “Iddah allowance” which the husband has to pay to his divorced wife until she is through with her normally three months “iddah” period after the divorce, or until she is delivered of her baby if she is also pregnant. Similarly the provision of custody allowance should also be appropriately captured along with its appropriate enforcement mechanisms.

Likewise it should regulate the common practice in child custody issue, where a husband who divorces his wife automatically claims right to her baby’s custody after weaning him. Incidentally, it is the appropriate court of law that determines which party shall take the child’s custody depending on where the strategic interests of the child would be better served and protected. And if either party proves equally eligible and capable, the child should still remain with his mother until he grows old enough to select where he wants be between his father’s and mother’s custody.

In the same vein, there should be an extensive and sustained social enlightenment exercise to raise public awareness about the essence of marriage in the fist place, which so many people not only in Kano but in Hausa-Fulani communities in general don’t seem to realize or uphold.

It is very unfortunate that, the essence of marriage is generally underestimated hence the general culture of disdain for women. This situation apparently originated from some ancient traditions and circumstances in which marriages were done and some of such traditions still persist.

For instance, the practice of marrying off a woman as “ladan noma” still exists. She is simply married off to someone deemed to have performed excellently as a peasant farmer not withstanding many other necessary criteria.

Likewise, a woman could be married off to even a delinquent young man or an irresponsible person under the assumption that the attendant responsibilities of fending for her, which he has to shoulder, would transform him into a responsible and productive gentleman.

Equally women are still married off or rather given out in charity as in “auren sadaka”, which also originated from some misconception of some religious injunctions as I explained elsewhere.

Moreover, the concept of polygamy is generally misunderstood hence abused. For instance, an  average Mallam Bahaushe simply goes polygamous in order to either (1) punish his first wife (2) compete or stand out in his peers, (3) avoid the social stigma associated with monogamy particularly if he is rich or has any social status (4) satisfy his sexual fantasy. Yet he in any case claims to simply practice the Sunnah, of course according to his misconception. This is why there is hardly any real peace and harmony in average polygamous households amongst the communities in question.

Worse still is there are still some women who are inherited, given out as gifts, or traded and kept as concubines and sex objects under various unfounded pretexts.

All such misconceptions, practices and abuses have to be aggressively discouraged in the society, so as to create a good environment for marriage to flourish. After all, marriage is worth whatever it takes to make it durable and enjoyable.

Written by Mohammad Qaddam Sidq Isa on Daily Trust


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