Unmarried Motherhood in Nigeria: the International Passport edition
Nigeria doesn’t make sense. But it especially makes no sense if you’re a woman…who is unmarried…who has a child.
Having decided to get my daughter an international passport, I got the phone number of an official at the Passport Office in Ikoyi to find out what the requirements are. I was told to produce my daughter’s birth certificate, my and her father’s international passports, his driver’s licence or national ID card and, Nigeria being Nigeria, a letter of consent from her father saying that he has given me permission to get my child the travel document. Because obviously, when your highest office is the kitchen, taking your child outside the country is a decision that you cannot be trusted to make on your own.
But here’s the kicker: I was also asked to produce a marriage certificate.
Me: Um, we’re not married.
Official: What do you mean you’re not married? Where did you see the baby from?
Official: You can’t come and tell me you want a passport for a child and I will not know the origin of the child. Don’t you know about human trafficking?
Me: I have her birth certificate.
Official: Anybody can do birth certificate anywhere! I don’t want anybody to sue us, please. You have to bring your international passport that shows you have the same name as your husband.
Me: … I’m not married to the father of the child. We don’t have the same surname.
Official: It’s like you’re not getting me. You must prove that you are the owner of the child with a valid document.
Me: What qualifies as a valid document?
Official: Marriage certificate.
Me: … … …
Official: See, you will have to come to the office and explain to us how you got the child because we can’t allow somebody to just bring any child and say something. We have even had cases where the father will call and say the mother has kidnapped the child, even with marriage certificate!
Me: I don’t have a marriage certificate because I am not married. So what do you propose that I do?
Official: You have to come to the office first. Maybe you can bring your husband when you come.