The Cinderella Effect And The Law -By B.C Obilor

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The Cinderella effect stirs from the fairy tale character Cinderella who was abused, violated and maltreated by her stepmother and  stepsisters. It depicts the stereotype and bias prevalent towards a next of kin unrelated to a spouse or partner as well as the conflict in a family arising from the presence and proximity of a non-genetic offspring in a home.


The risk of abuse and violence of stepchildren have been found to be significantly increased with the presence of stepparents own genetic offspring resulting in most step parents not wanting to invest love, care, affection and resources in children that are not genetically/biologically theirs.

In Nigeria, abuse and violence against children most especially stepchildren is a major social and public health issue with serious short and long term consequences ranging from; antisocial/criminal behavior, aggression, violence, educational underachievement, depression, suicide amongst others.

It worthy of note that abuse and violence against children and stepchildren alike is crime embedded and provided for by several national and international treaties and laws. According to Section 11 of the child’s right Act 2004 which has been the domesticated in about 28 states across Nigeria, it provides that;

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“Every child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly, no child shall be-

  1. Subjected to physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or maltreatment, including sexual abuse;
  2. Subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  3. Subject to attacks upon his honor or reputation or
  4. Held in slavery or servitude, while in the care of a parent, legal guardian or school authority or any other person or authority having the care of the child.”

Therefore, the breach of the above provision or any other national and international treaties and laws protecting the rights of a child will amount to the infringement of the fundamental right of the child enforceable and actionable in the court of law. Furthermore, recognizing that the government of Nigeria bears the primary responsibility for the protection of children in Nigeria, any incident of abuse and violence against a child should be reported at the nearest police station or to the child protection sub-sector led by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development where such abuse or violence occurred or to other civil society (governmental and non-governmental) that addresses abuse and violence against children.

In conclusion, as stated by the Holy Bible, children are a gift from the Lord; they are a real blessing (Psalm 127:3) and are to be treated as such. Correspondingly, parents have a special role and responsibility in safeguarding their children (genetic and non-genetic alike) from various forms of abuse and violence which will go a long way in the reduction of the high volume of problem and challenges in the home arising from the lethal and non-lethal violence and abuse perpetrated by step parents and siblings  as well as the elevated crime rate and violence carried out by these children in the society.

B.C OBILOR ESQ is a legal practitioner based in AKURE. ( 08069395552)


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