Nigerian Senate votes down bill on gender equality citing the Bible and Sharia law

Nigerian Senate votes down bill on gender equality citing the Bible and Sharia law

Nigerian lawmakers on Tuesday (Mar.15), voted against a gender and equal opportunities bill (pdf), which was being sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi. The bill, which did not pass a second reading, was aimed at bridging the gap between the rights of men and women in Nigeria. It also sought to end questionable and unpleasant stereotypical practices that drive discrimination based on gender. The bill amongst other things was designed to address women’s freedom of movement, female economic activity, girls’ access to education, equal rights for women in marriage, divorce, property/land ownership and inheritance, appropriate measures against gender discrimination in political and public life and prohibitions of violence to women.

During the debate for and against the bill, Senate leader, Ali Ndume, said there is a conflict between our traditional belief and our religious belief regarding the protection of women rights. He called for the passage of the bill because it would afford men and women in marriage the same equal rights. “This law that is being amended is very important especially when there is a clear conflict when it comes to dealing with widows, inheritance, divorce, even marriage itself in our society.

“There are various traditions. The problem we have is the combination of our traditions and new religious beliefs. You will find an Igbo man who cannot speak Igbo language because he studied abroad. He will do traditional marriage then go to church again to get married in the church. The church wedding says if you marry, the couple becomes one while the Igbo tradition says when you marry a wife, she becomes your property. So when issues come up after the marriage, you now wonder which one to take.

“As for inheritance and divorce, in Islam, it is very clear how it is being done, but if you combine that with your tradition, you find out that women are being discriminated in a disadvantageous manner. There is a need for women who are involved in this advocacy to also engage in enlightenment. If you will marry, you will marry; either Christian or Muslim.

“I think this bill is timely and important and at the public hearing stage, we will look at this bill very well.”

Senate deputy president, Ike Ekeremadu, also spoke in favor of the bill. “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.”

While the bill garnered support from some lawmakers, male and female, it ultimately failed to progress on the senate floor as a majority voted against it. Before voting, various senators, who opposed the bill, spoke about the incompatibility of the bill with religious laws and beliefs.tweet1

Predictably, the rejection of the bill has resulted in uproar on social media with Nigerians expressing shock and disbelief that the bill, widely regarded as necessary and forward-thinking, was turned down especially among a group of lawmakers believed to be the best collection in years.tweet3tweet2

As a whole, the bill focuses on eliminating discrimination based on gender in the fields of politics, education and employment. It also prohibits violence—domestic and sexual—against women.

It stated: “In the case of educational placement and school enrollment, including award of scholarships, bursaries, or such allocations, that parity is ensured for boys and girls, men and women”. This is important in a country where girls and women continue to be excluded from education (pdf) based on their gender.

It also hoped to achieve “the elimination of gender stereotyping, prejudices, and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes, or the roles for men and women.”

In today’s Nigeria, despite the increased literacy rates which have accompanied urbanization and economic growth, gender equality remains an ideal that is sought after more than it is an everyday reality. For example, job advertisements for seemingly gender-neutral roles often specify that male candidates are preferred. Feminism is a raging topic that elicits more conflict than compromise and, perhaps worst of all, sexual violence and rape levels remain shockingly high.

While there is a growing generation of young people who are hoping to change the status quo with conversations that highlight inequality such as the #BeingFemaleInNigeria hashtag on Twitter last year, a mass populace who rationalize rights along the lines of religion and cultural belief remain the majority.

Seeking to modify and ultimately end odious socio-cultural practices that have been long in existence, such as the antagonistic treatment of widows, the bill states that widows “shall not be subjected to inhuman, humiliating or degrading treatment” and “shall have the right to an equitable share in the inheritance of the property of her husband.”

The bill also hoped to ensure more participation of women in politics, a space historically dominated by men. Of Nigeria’s 109 senators, only seven are women even though the country’s population is fairly evenly split along gender lines. A section of the bill sought to “ensure to women, on equal terms with men, the right to participate fully in all political activities, including the right to vote and be voted for in all elections and public referenda, and to be eligible for election to all publicly elected offices and bodies without any restriction, limitation or barriers whatsoever.”

Crucially, the bill was also firm on prohibition of domestic and sexual violence against women and instituting 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage. This is in a bid to tackle a notorious prominence of child brides in Nigeria where, according to UNICEF, 43% of girls are said to be married off before they turn 18. To implement its provisions, a Gender and Equal Opportunities Commission was to be created.

It is not the first time Nigeria’s current lawmakers have made the news for the wrong reasons. Last December, they sought to pass a bill believed to be aimed at gagging social media. Under the terms of the bill, offenders could face jail time and fines as high as $20,000.

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29 Comments

  1. Mr. Anonymous
    March 16, 06:20 Reply

    Am I pissed off? Probably not. Disappointed maybe. But I can’t really feel for the majority of Nigerians upset with the Senate. It seems that it’s okay to want religion not to interfere with politics only when the bill in question affects beliefs that you accept. Most of these people were hailing the Senate for using religion to justify jailing homosexuals. Abeg go sidon jare.
    Eliminate religion from politics completely if you want to get anything done.

    • Dubem
      March 16, 06:24 Reply

      First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
      Because I was not a Socialist.
      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out
      Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out
      Because I was not a Jew.
      Then they came for me…and there was no one left to speak for me.

      I’m right there with you, Anonymous.

      • Marc Francis of Chelsea
        March 16, 13:49 Reply

        *pussy pops on handstand*

        The same bible that says do not be equally yolked with unbelievers? The same quran that calls Christians infidels?

        Wow! Who would imagine that books written by MEN in times before the dark ages would disadvantage women?

        Who would imagine that men that have seven wives and still marry 13 year old girls would say that women should be equal?

        In the same country where a woman isn’t let into Intercontinental Hotel because she isn’t accompanied by a man?

        *pussy pops on handstand*

    • Tiercel de Claron
      March 16, 11:36 Reply

      Eliminate religion and they’ll find another cudgel to use.
      The average Nigerian is comfortable with and revels in his ignorance.Cure him of that and such pestilence as is our crop of politicians will cease to be

  2. Mandy
    March 16, 06:21 Reply

    That we allowed this nonsense about the ‘African culture’, tradition and religion to get in the way of valid issues like gender equality is very saddening about the kind of country we are in. Nigeria, I weep for you. Clearly we are too far stuck in the rut of the 15th century to know the definition of change, let alone implement it.

  3. bruno
    March 16, 06:34 Reply

    hehe. tradition and religious beliefs strikes again!

    hopefully this is a motivation for women to unite with gays in the bid to get religious and traditional sentiment out of our law making process

  4. ambivalentone
    March 16, 07:16 Reply

    The very 1st ppl they go to garner votes from is market WOMEN. They go about RENTING women who will walk naked and wail for them. They remember that women have spiritual powers and beg them to organise prayer meetings YET ordinary respecting them, iro o!!! Its not kuku their fault na. The women sold their dignity for porridge. NOBODY is safe in this country se

  5. Max 2.1
    March 16, 07:32 Reply

    I’m not really surprised. When the people(men among them)who are making the law believe they’re more important than women, this is the kind of result you get.

    I’m getting outta this country.. I dunno how long I can take their idiocy.

    *dials Khaleesi on the phone** ” nne how much is plane ticket to Amirika?”

  6. Dennis Macaulay
    March 16, 07:34 Reply

    Was it not this same senate that it was advocated that somebody should marry 2 wives? While another should marry made in Nigeria women? Loooool

    The senate is a beer parlor, those types they sell tombo and dog meat, but its a pity that it costs us 120bn naira to maintain these idiots annually

  7. Mitch
    March 16, 07:49 Reply

    I’m not surprised! Those fools have sworn that moving forward is the last thing on their minds so would you blame them for shooting down forward thinking bills?

  8. Chizzie
    March 16, 07:58 Reply

    It’s one of those stories you read and you dissociate into lala land because you are too ashamed to be associated with such a country. I think it’s imperative that young ppl from our generation become more actively involved in politics. We hve to, if we want to see change.
    The folks up in the Senate are old, archaic, dogmatic, sexist, homophobes and hypocrites who are really just out for their own interest…

    We can’t hope for any atom of change as long as they are still clinging to power. We as young folks have to start grooming ourselves towards political positions, that is if we really want change..

    • Pink Panther
      March 16, 08:10 Reply

      The sad thing is most of these regressive philosophies are being upheld by some youths, some in our generation. Some young men still think a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Don’t even get me started on those who bristle loudly whenever topics concerning feminism or Chimamanda Adichie come up.

      • Tiercel de Claron
        March 16, 11:44 Reply

        Sincere ignorance,my friend.Sincere ignorance.
        Being the 15th century beings we are,I’m sure they don’t know any better.
        I’m quite sure many on here actually believes Bwacha’s asinine position as truly supported by the Bible,for instance.

    • Max 2.1
      March 16, 11:02 Reply

      It’s almost as if our young generation is a mirror image of the older one. Pinky is right.

  9. Absalom
    March 16, 08:29 Reply

    I saw a comment yesterday that said “It is stupidity that will make a woman challenge a man.”

    This country can drive one to suicide. It’s not worth it.

  10. Delle
    March 16, 09:15 Reply

    Why am I not surprised? Is it not Nigeria? Where we have mostly Educated Illiterates at the apex? For a country seeking development and wanting to compete favourably with other nations, the whole system is a mess. They think it’s all about infrastructure and amenities? There are other facets of life that should be tackled if we are to move forward. This is what happens when we elect pot-bellied, ape-like individuals to govern and rule over us.

    Now, why are Nigerians angry? Why are they vexed? Did you expect this bill to be passed when the gay bill was ultimately trashed? Our Senators have a very shallow mentality…prolly many of them would be thinking if they pass this gender equality bill it would inadvertently lead 2 the passing of the same-sex bill…smh.
    @that girl (El-giva Stephen)…you are regretting being a Nigerian just now? Lmao…join the queue.

    • Max 2.1
      March 16, 11:04 Reply

      “prolly many of them would be thinking if they pass this gender equality bill it would inadvertently lead 2 the passing of the same-sex bill”..

      I had the same thought

  11. Geeluv
    March 16, 10:15 Reply

    The entire Nigerians supported the bill against homosexuality… so i don’t see how this is a problem… we shall all enjoy the country together ???

  12. Tobby
    March 16, 11:13 Reply

    Nigerians get exactly the kind of leaders they deserve.

  13. Khaleesi
    March 16, 11:48 Reply

    @Delle, thank you dear, My point in exactly! Development isn’t all about spending billions of dollars building world class infrastructure, development is largely in the minds of people! Which is why a city like Abuja despite its modern infrastructure, is still largely inhabited by typical Nigerian beasts who drive like lunatics on the wide and smooth modern highways ….
    Its so sad that in 2016, Nigerian lawmakers have voted to remain in the 15th century and their justification is culture and religion, cast your mind back to

  14. Tiercel de Claron
    March 16, 12:06 Reply

    “The church wedding says if you marry, the couple becomes one while the Igbo tradition says when you marry a wife, she becomes your property”
    Somebody who knows diddly-squat about Igbo culture says this and I’m sure certain ignorant Igbo youths would nod their heads in affirmation.Married women their husbands’ properties in Igboland?.Say this before my umunna and get okra seeds knocked out of your mouth,not to talk of what Ndi iyom or umu would do to you.

    • Tiercel de Claron
      March 16, 12:17 Reply

      Coming to Emmanuel Bwacha quoting,or should I say,taking a passage of the bible out of context,to support a mule-headed stance,somebody need to remind him of Zelophehad’s daughters in the Bible,for instance,and the fact they inherited their father’s possesions including lands.Num 28:1-8.Or should I talk of the Moabitess,Ruth,who inherited her husband’s properties,sight unseen,and no one questioned her inheritance cos its the law?.
      In fact,the Bible’s support of women’s possession and inheritance of properties,as well as rights of widowhood is well documented.Who doesn’t know the story of the widow and the corrupt judge in the Bible, so I wonder where he got the asinine idea the Bible is against women’s rights

      • Tiercel de Claron
        March 16, 12:23 Reply

        Of course,they get away with such idiocy here cos Nigerians are in the main,blithely ignorant,particularly the so-called educated folks.All you need do to get their support is pander to their emotions,couched in the guise of championing particular religion,culture or ethnicity,political/economic interest and you have them eating out of your hands.Spread some cash along with it and they’re your slaves for a long time to come,even to the detriment of their well-being and long-term interest.

  15. sensei
    March 16, 12:54 Reply

    The temperature here is just right. We wait for the overboil.

  16. Marc Francis of Chelsea
    March 16, 14:04 Reply

    Like I said yesterday, it serves them right! I will never ever forget the arguments I had with people after reading this article on Vanguard. It was my awakening as a gay Nigerian man. http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/02/anti-gay-law-article-reply-chimamanda-adichie/

    Chimamanda posted a poignant article on the New York Times about the evilness of the anti-gay bill and Nigerians like the foolish author of that article bashed her, calling human rights “satanic” and “Western.” Many women were amongst them. Now equality has become “unbiblical” and “untraditional” and peoples’ panties are knotting up? Stay sleeping girls!

  17. eddie
    March 17, 21:18 Reply

    BooHoo….. now they know how it feels!

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