Hisbah, the para-security organizations created to implement Shari’a law in many of the Northern Nigerian states has gotten a bad rep over the last few years. Particularly in Kano state where the Hisbah board has unfairly targeted LGBT people, tried to legislate and prosecute consensual sexual activity and has been essentially used to police sex and sexuality. The publicity that the antics of the Kano state Hisbah board has garnered has cast a pall on the work that the Hisbah board is actually supposed to do, and drawn attention from the work that the Jigawa state work is doing in the state.
Across Nigeria, forced marriages and underage marriages are growing concern, as more societal pressure forces women and girls into marital situations that endanger their lives and curtail their freedoms. Religious and cultural expectations make it quite hard for women in the predominantly Muslim North to escape forced or underage marriages even though the Qu’ran and Shari’a law enshrines the rights of women to divorce their spouses on grounds of malcontent. The Jigawa state Hisbah board is actually taking a proactive step in helping women who find themselves in these situations by intervening.
According to a report in the Premium Times, the Hisbah board in the state has annulled about 330 forced marriages in 2019, after it confirmed that one party is unfairly treated in the union. Many of the women for whom marriages were annulled fled their marriages in protest. Ibrahim Garki, the head of Jigawa’s Hisbah board confirmed the dissolution of the marriages and confirmed the victims of those unions had been reunited with their families and put in place measures that ensured underaged wives were returned to formal education.
The Hisbah board is also tackling the Almajiri crisis by rescuing 436 homeless children and teenagers and reconciling them with their families. There is much to be done, but organizations like the Hisbah board with the backing of the region’s religious leaders have been able to impact the lives of nearly 1000 people. Kano state and the rest of the region can learn a thing from the restorative powers of an institution focused on positive contributions to their host communities.