It seems that the greatest nightmare for some children in Nigeria is to live as stepchildren or house-helps. Their lives sometimes could be as bad as those trafficked across borders. It is sad to observe that some feel important because they have house-helps. That’s why even in low-income families still demand maids. They go to the village and bring to the city a child they have no intention of caring for. And when the child arrives in the city, he is sent to do demeaning things and becomes a victim of cruel ordeals.
We expect women to show more affection for children but not stepmothers. In 2016, it was reported that a stepmother in Niger State, Nigeria, cut off the private organ of her 23-day old stepson that did nothing to her. I was once part of a prosecution team that tried a stepmother who pursued her stepson until he fell and cut his chin, leading to his death. Neighbours confirmed that the stepmother always maltreated the boy. Her constant torment of the child made him run for his life only to meet death. Although the court did not convict her, holding that the woman did not intend to kill the child, it isn’t overboard to submit that the woman could wish for nothing better. We cannot undermine the agony these children experience. Some are sexually violated while others are so disoriented that they wish they were never born.
Why is this so? For stepchildren, they seem to be paying for the sins of their fathers. When a child is born out of wedlock, the stepmother is usually the one who suggests that the child is brought home under the pretext that the child needs to grow together with other siblings. In reality, she doesn’t want a recurrence of another escapade by her husband. Her thought is that if the stepchild is left outside, the man will have reasons to go and visit the child and of course send money across. However, some stepchildren are from a first marriage that ended by death or divorce. When such children are brought home, they are treated nicely until they show signs of being more beautiful, more intelligent or more loved by the father than the stepmother’s children, then hell is let loose on that child, alas! God is not a man.
While all these go on, the father is as helpless as a child. A sore sight difficult to explain. The man seems to be bewitched by his wife as he does nothing to aid his child’s pain. Something is not right with such men. Sometimes, the man’s heart is turned against the child such that he believes with his wife that the child is wayward. Such children are left to figure out life on their own. Some never do while others do. This, however, shouldn’t be the case. From the unequal distribution of house chores, lesser opportunities, physical abuse, curses to emotional trauma, a stepchild is on a journey of frustration for a minimum of 20 years depending on when he was brought to that house.
We must all rise against violence against children.
Men protect the children you brought to this world.
By Busaosowo Bisong Esq
Email address: [email protected]