Exactly a week after an international celebration of women, a bill that was supposed to guarantee women’s equal rights with their male counterparts was on 15th March, 2016 thrown out by the Nigerian Senate. The bill, presented by Senator Biodun Olujimi, representing Ekiti South Senatorial District and the Deputy Minority Whip, was not allowed to pass the second reading.
The Gender and Equal Opportunities Act was supposed to deplete all forms of violence against women including sexual abuse and discrimination; solicit for adoption of special temporary measures to eliminate discrimination and ensure equal opportunities for majority of Nigerians. It also seeks appropriate measures against gender discrimination in political and public life and prohibitions of violence against women. Furthermore, the bill was supposed to protect women on event of husband’s death so as to retain right to children and be able to inherit husband’s properties. Unfortunately, the bill that was hitherto meant to be the legal Messiah of the Nigerian girl-child was killed by the Nigerian senate.
After a long debate among the likes of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the sponsor of the bill, Senator Biodun Olujimi, and other senators, the bill was dropped on cultural and religious grounds. Paramount in the long list of the reasons for its rejection is the supposed negation of the bill to the Holy Bible, the Sharia Law and the inherited cultures in some parts of the country.
In contrast to its promises to women barely seven days ago at the celebration of the 2016 International Women’s Day; to tap into the countless opportunities available by working in-line with sustainable development goals #1, #3, #5, and #8, which seek to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, the senate has failed to separate the jamboree of celebration from its realities.
The question then is ‘Is Nigeria really working towards achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls – #SDG 5’?