The Case of Wasila Tasi'u
Wasila Tasiu was probably about 12 or 13 when she became the second wife of Umaru Sani, a man at least two or three times her age. Everyone in her village said she went willingly, and was of age to be married. But seventeen days after she left her family’s village and moved into her husband’s house, she added rat poison to his dinner, killing him, his friend, and two wandering beggar boys with whom he shared his meal.
She was accused of murder in the first degree and put on trail as an adult. If convicted, she would have faced the death penalty.
Her case polarized Nigeria: many southern Christians rallied around her as a child bride, while many Northern Muslims pointed to tradition and cultural norms.
To photograph this story, I went to Wasila’s village and met her family, and then to her husband’s village and met his family. I saw the dowry he bought for her, which his family bitterly complained he’d saved up money to afford for years. And finally, to try and grasp what Wasila’s marriage and life must have been like, I went to another village and saw a very young, very scared, and very poor girl getting married. When I asked how old she was, her mother answered that she was 18.
Commissioned by Al Jazeera America