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Senate And Gender Equality Bill

Posted: Mar 31, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The “Gender Parity and Prohibition of Violence Against Women Bill” recently turned down by the Nigerian Senate is obviously not what the Nigerian Society needs, at least for the moment. Transitional Societies such as ours tend to be in haste over handling developmental challenges, which at the end breed more problems.

Presented by Senator Abiodun Olujimi (Ekiti South), the Bill sought equal rights for women in marriage, education and job. Every widow in Nigeria would become the custodian of their children in the event of death of husband and would also inherit the man’s property. The Bill would address discriminatory practices against women, access to education, female entrepreneurship development, participation in governance, decision-making and protection against violence.

Essentially, the Gender Equality Bill sought to address the perceived marginalisation of women, even as women activists have vowed to push the Bill through. They argue that rejection of the Bill would take Nigeria several steps backward in global reckoning. But this is neither here nor there as far as the argument is concerned.

Nigerian women’s struggle for gender equity has been on for several years. Feminism has continued to undergo metamorphosis in the Nigerian context. From what was then known as “Women Liberation”, it became “Women empowerment” and through Affirmative Action of the UN, Beijing Confab of 1995 to the current search for gender equity. Granted that there are obvious discriminatory practices against women, probably being accentuated by religious and cultural rites, women, some analysts believe, have as much rights as men. The old notion of a male dominated world is fast fading away in a highly modernising world where women are even at the drivers’ seat of countries, corporate bodies, business, commerce and industry. It is indeed gratifying to note that women are proving their mettle and would therefore need expansion of the socio-economic and political space to continue to unleash their potentialities.

As a matter of fact, there are extant laws, which address discriminatory practices against women. Apart from the Nigerian Constitution, some international conventions and instruments, of which Nigeria is a signatory, cater for the rights and development of women. Perhaps, all that is needed is implementation of these provisions, which enhance the rights and privileges of women globally. Indeed all the rights women seek in Nigeria could be adequately addressed using the instrumentality of these national and international conventions.

Granted that women face maltreatment in some cultures and traditions in the Nigerian society, efforts should be stepped up to identify and campaign against such obnoxious cultural practices and norms. Indeed the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and gender-based organisations need to embark on aggressive enlightenment campaign at sensitising the populace on citizenship rights, privileges and obligations. Again, women should endeavour to support themselves politically and economically for the realisation of common goals and aspirations.

There is indeed nothing wrong with the gender war as could be seen from developments in developed democracies where women show class and panache in politics and business. So, rather than seek gender priority, Nigerian women should start to demonstrate zeal and resilience. There should be a situation whereby we can confidently say that “what a man can do well, a woman can even do better”.

It may be true that senators who voted against the “Gender Parity and Prohibition of Violence Against Women” Bill might have based their judgment on religious or traditional marriage, that is not to say that those, especially feminists, who have vowed to actualise the Bill into law, have our support.

Rather than re-present or revisit the Bill, the government should strengthen legal instruments to tackle certain impediments in areas of religious and cultural barriers that continue to manifest against women in the society. Women play unique and indispensable role, they do not need gender parity in order to continue to be useful.