Abandoning A Pregnant Woman Or Girl Is A Crime
Rejection is one common factors in the lives of many women, during their days of unplanned pregnancy. There are often high cases of school age girls being expelled and dropped out of school or being rejected by their parents because there are pregnant. Many African parents will reject and even abandon their children, who became pregnant while at school and without a husband. Most boys and men, will deny, reject and abandon their pregnant girlfriends and fiancées, where there is an unplanned pregnancy. While, this status quo must change, since there is a law in Lagos State, that makes the abandonment of a pregnant woman a crime. Abandonment here covers failure to pay maternity bills. It is important to add that marriage is immaterial to this discussion, whether the pregnant person is married or not, does not matter.
Marriage and the Abandonment of Pregnant Women/Girls:
Pregnancy is a product of sexual intercourse, save for some medical procedures that permit artificial insemination (like, the In Vitro Fertilisation [IVF]). Aside pleasure, one major purpose of sexual intercourse is pregnancy. On a lighter note, the popular Nigerian comedian (Nkem Owoh) once satirically asked his friend in a movie, if the friend was expecting a refrigerator instead of a baby, after the friend was alleged to have had unprotected sex with Nkem Owoh’s daughter. The often purpose of sexual intercourse is pregnancy, aside fun, whether there is marriage or not. Marriage is not an important factor in pregnancy in the eyes of law. Whether there is a marriage or not, once there is a pregnancy, the pregnant person must be cared for and provided for by her “Impregnantor” (the person responsible for impregnating a female). Both the “Impregnantor” and the “Impregnantee” (the person that was impregnated) are to be in the business of pregnancy together.
Since Lagos State is always ahead of every other state and the entire nation, the jurisprudence of Lagos State cannot be equated to that of any other state in Nigeria. Links to my earlier works justifying this premise is located at the footnote. In Lagos State, it is an offence for any person that impregnated a woman or girl to fail, refuse or neglect “… to contribute to maternity related costs from ante-natal to post-natal stages…”. So, in Lagos State, abandonment of a pregnant woman or girl, does not only cover physical abandonment but extends to refusal to provided needed maternity care and finance for a pregnant woman/girl and her baby, during pregnancy and after pregnancy (post-natal period).
Maternity related cost here covers; “… all medical expenses, food expenses, reasonable shelter and other necessaries.”. However, the provision of maternity care is determined according to the “… means and resources available…” to the person that impregnated the woman or girl. This is to strike a balance and ensure that pregnant women and girls do not seek heaven on earth beyond the financial capabilities of their “Impregnators”.
Like any offence, there is a punishment for any person that impregnates a woman or girl and fails, refuses or neglects “… to contribute to maternity related costs from ante-natal to post-natal stages…”. The punishment is a fine of N45, 000.00 plus the cost “… that any other person may have reasonably incurred in relation to the upkeep of the (pregnant) woman or girl”. So, the family and well-wishers of a pregnant woman, can safely recover any fees or resources spent on a pregnant person from the “Impregnantor”.
Lagos State is not one of the states where a boy or man can impregnate a woman or girl and abandon the impregnated person without contributing to the maternity related costs from ante-natal to post-natal stages. It is an offence in all parts of Lagos State for any person to impregnate a person and leave the impregnated person without contributing to the maternity related costs from ante-natal to post-natal stages of the impregnated person.
Whether the “Impregnantee” (the person impregnated) and the “Impregnator” (the person that impregnated”) are married or living together or in any form of relationship is not relevant. The key factor here is that, an “Impregnator” must care and provide the maternity costs of his “Impregnanteee”. Let the person that has planted, be ready to weed and harvest the farm, else he may be arrested and prosecuted. As usual, Lagos is ahead of other states.
This provision that criminalized the abandonment of pregnant woman or wife, is contained in the Criminal Law of Lagos State, since 8th day of August 2011. Till dated, many states have not adapted and imitated this provision. Even the national level, the law on domestic violence (the Violence Against Persons [Prohibition] Act, 2015) which obviously was made later in 2015, failed to have such reassuring provision. Also, most of the states that have been pushed to enact their own anti-domestic violence law, merely imitated the Violence Against Persons [Prohibition] Act, 2015 (VAPP ACT) and failed to criminalize the abandonment of pregnant women and girls. Legislators must not lose focus with realities, data and the plight of women and girls unplanned pregnancy. I purposely don’t want to call the pregnancies “Unwanted pregnancies”, rather “Unplanned Pregnancies”. Legislators should include this in their buckets of amendments for the anti-sexual and domestic violence laws.