Int’l Women’s Day: Nigerian Lawmakers Quashed Gender Equality Bill

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — For the third time in five years, Nigeria’s National Assembly has voted against a bill providing affirmative action for women in political party administration. The lawmakers also voted against a provision to create special seats for women in the national and state assemblies.

The legislators who rejected the bill cited “socio-cultural and Islamic concerns.” Eighty-one lawmakers voted in favour of the bill, while 208 voted against it and 13 members abstained from voting.

The proposed legislation titled “a Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Provide a Minimum Percentage for Women in Ministerial or Commissioner Nominees,” would have criminalized discrimination on the basis of gender or marital status and was also aimed at improving enforcement of existing laws against gender-based violence.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Biodun Olujimi from Ekiti state in southern Nigeria, said the proposed law would stem a tide of gender-based violence against women.

Cynthia Mbamalu, program manager at YIAGA Africa, a non-profit leading the campaign for the legislation’s passage, called its latest defeat “a major setback on our path towards a more developed society.”

The rejection of all five gender bills was met with dismay by a coalition of 229 women’s groups who converged at the country’s parliament in Abuja to protest the decision. Present at the voting was Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, the wife of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who lobbied unsuccessfully for the adoption of the bill.

Following the vote, hundreds of women showed up at the National Assembly Complex in the Nigerian capital to demonstrate against the Senate’s decisions.

‘’I am here [at the protest] because I am angry,” said Nimisire Emitomo, a 25-year-old writer speaking to Ope Adetayo, a reporter from the Al Jazeera news service. “When I saw the vote yesterday (March 1), the first thing that came to my mind is why do they hate us so much? They are literally saying we are second-class citizens.’’

One of the amendments, if passed, would have granted citizenship to foreign-born husbands of Nigerian women; the Nigerian constitution already confers automatic citizenship on foreign-born wives of Nigerian men. Another would have given a woman the right to become residents of their husband’s state after five years of marriage.

For months, Chioma Agwuegbo, executive director of TechHerNG and other activists had held consultations on the bills with legislators, civil society groups and various other stakeholders.

“They shut the bills down with a vehemence that scares us,” said Agwuegbo, one of the organizers of the protest. “The reason why women are out today and tomorrow and keep having this conversation is that women are not just good only for votes. You cannot lead us without us.’’

“It is clear that [the rejection of the bills] is a continuation of patriarchal structure in the society,” Ayisha Osori, director of Open Society Foundations, told Al Jazeera. “As diverse as Nigeria is, in terms of how divided we seem to be when it comes to ethnic, religious and class divides, one thing that unites Nigerians more than anything is the common hatred for women.”

Last year, a similar bill to promote gender equality in employment and property inheritance was discarded for the third time after male senators from the northern region complained that such bills were “anti-Islam”.

Women and girls make up nearly half the entire country’s population in Nigeria but are grossly underrepresented in Nigeria’s political space. Only 19 of the 469 legislators currently serving in Nigeria’s bicameral legislature—a meagre 4 per cent—are female. [IDN-InDepthNews – 08 March 2022]

Photo: Women protesting at the Nigerian National Assembly for inclusion of women in politics among other things. Source: The Premium Times, Nigeria.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

We believe in the free flow of information. Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International, except for articles that are republished with permission.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top