I read an article in the Daily Mail today that both shocked and saddened me. The story described how a 14-year-old Nigerian girl had poisoned her 35-year-old husband because she had been forced into marrying him.
It struck a chord with me—not just because forced marriage and motherhood is a key theme in my debut novel, True Calling—but because I still find it so hard to believe that this type of slavery exists in the modern world that we live in.
I realize now what a charmed childhood I had growing up in Ireland, and how sheltered I was from the ways of the wider world. Never in a million years could I have contemplated a world where kids are being forced to marry men old enough to be their dads. And how utterly traumatizing it must be to have your whole future already mapped out for you, when you are still in your formative years and only beginning to try to work out who you are and what you want out of life.
It would be easy to point the finger of blame at the culture that accepts this as normal, but society in general is to blame. How do our world leaders continue to allow the persecution and abuse of women, in such an open, blatant manner? Why isn’t there more focus and priority given to eradicating injustice and cruelty in our world? Why isn’t there more support given to the U.N. and other organizations who try so hard to right the wrongs, and influence positive change.
As I rant at unfairness of the world we live in, a world that has failed this young girl, I understand that this is just one tiny example which illustrates the deplorable conditions that so many people are forced to endure; there is a litany of other stories on a daily basis which speak to the cruelty of our world. And I know that people empathize, and try to help in whatever way they can. But it’s not enough. We need to do more.
The recent kidnapping of all those young girls in Nigeria made headlines around the world, and people took to their social media accounts in their droves to help spread awareness. But it’s several months later, and what of those girls? What has actually been done to rescue them, to reunite them with their families? I’m sure there are countless political interventions taking place in the background, but will it achieve anything? And if they are successfully returned home, is it forced marriage that awaits them too? What does it say about the world that we can all be so outraged one minute, and then apparently forget about it the next?
That this young girl chose to fight back is only surprising in the fact that it appears to be so uncommon. How desperate she must have felt to have decided to poison her new husband; to feel that it was her only way out. And what lies in wait for this child that society has abandoned? Life-imprisonment? Or is death inevitable? Irrespective of the chosen punishment, what is abundantly clear is that her whole life has been taken from her overnight. She is another casualty of this world.
I’m a big fan of young adult fiction and I have read tons of dystopian stories over the last few years. Many of these books talk of corrupt, controlling regimes and people that turn on each other and kill needlessly (sure my own novel has some similar themes) but the unpleasant truth of the situation is that we don’t need to dream up these worlds, because so much of it makes up the reality that we live in today. And that is a very disturbing thought.