Gender equality bill: a step forward or a step backward?

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Gender equality bill: a step forward or a step backward?

Gender equality bill: a step forward or a step backward?
March 16
10:50 2016

Millions of Nigerians, especially the female folks have been expressing their distastes with recent decision of members of the Nigeria senate who voted against the Gender Equality in Marriage bill, which was sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi.

The Bill is to provide a legislation that seeks to eliminate all forms of discrimination on the basis of sex Gender and Equal Opportunities and gender in private and public spaces, modification of socio-cultural practices, equal rights for women in marriage, divorce, property ownership and inheritance and also to affirms women’s rights to equal opportunities to realize their full potential and provide protection for their bodily integrity and human dignity.

Nevertheless, the bill did not pass a second reading when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki called for a vote for it to pass, majority of the senators voted against the bill. The bill did not pass second reading based on religious and traditional beliefs.

Sani Yerima, a senator from Zamfara state, condemned the bill, arguing that it was in conflict with the Nigerian Constitution. He said the bill negates the principles of the Sharia law, which the Constitution recognises.
Senate deputy president, Ike Ekeremadu, spoke in favour of the bill. He said,
“Only last night, I was going through a document prepared by George Bush of America. Those countries that are doing well are those who give women opportunities. Where I come from, women don’t eat egg and are restricted from touching the non-essential parts of animal. But now that has changed. What is needed is time and education, not necessarily legislation. We will continue to encourage our women. I support this bill.”

It may be recalled that only last week Senator Ndume had suggested a ‘silly’ idea for showing care to women. In the motion to mark International Women’s Day, he suggested that the ideal way of showing affection to the womenfolk is polygamy. Ndume’s motion has since been a major cause for concern, as one would have expected that a representative of the federal republic of Nigeria would say something more meaningful about the aspirations of women in a gender-biased society.

The Bill which was borne out of the desire to bring together similar initiatives to avoid overlap and duplication of efforts as well as to harness the full potential of pooling of capacities for the promotion and the protection of the rights of Nigerian women would have shown the world that Nigeria was ready to embrace globalization and women empowerment through gender equality and equal opportunities. Instead this latest move by the Senate reflects the exact opposite.

Women play a vital role in the development of any economy. The impact of women in developed countries cannot be overemphasized. Virtually every developed country of the world promotes women’s rights and equal opportunities. If Nigeria seeks to achieve its vision 2020, rejecting this bill may pose a major threat to fulfilling that cause.

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