The Senate and the rejected Gender Equality Bill

Posted by Vanessa Kelechi | 4 November 2016 | 3,137 times

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She is a lady against the brutal affront of the echoes of her minimal gender, condemned to a stiller doom, taught to be rebellious with such human tranquility.  Yet her rebellious soul revolts against such stereotyped ferments in the masses of life which people earth as she suffers from too rigid a restraint, instructed in-depth to the gallery of her soul to confine herself to knitting stockings, making soup, school runs, being the bedroom whore and loving her sagging breasts of motherhood.

I have a perception that these were the crumbs in the inner recesses of Senator Abiodun Olujimi, Senator representing Ekiti South senatorial district when she raised the bill titled “Gender Parity and Prohibition of Violence Against Women” during a Senate plenary session.

A leap into the global circle entreats our minds to the report of the Global Media Monitoring Group five-year study of women’s representation in media released by the United Nations. This report observed a shift in global digital platforms that has only replicated existing disparities and featured women as subject in a dismal 26% of stories. This defies the trend of gender equality with its large gender gap in newscast, an anomaly that the cultural thorns of gender inequality has replicated itself even into the digital realm. For this reason, I am left with no option than to subscribe to the assertion of Sarah Macharia that “when girls and women do not see themselves in the news media, then it is a problem.”

 Gender inequality still remains an insurmountable obstacle in Nigeria. Although considerable progress is being made by selfless inclined citizens like Senator Abiodun, there are resistance such as the pressure situated on this one Act that will achieve freedom for every human species with a vagina. This act was suppressed by senators with an exclusive or distinct point of view.

A survey of demographic dividend of the Northern hemisphere in Nigeria reveals how it is normalcy for young girls swayed into marriage to  use modern contraceptives due to the resulting consequence of their early reproductive life and a denial of the chance to go through critical life transition.

At some point or the other, women have made efforts to achieve gender equality but the core problem lies not in increasing gender equality but sustaining gender equality and this incites a revolution.

The one time bill that will have resolved all the issues addressing gender inequality in Nigeria and have it encapsulated into one Act was defeated when the Senate president put it to vote. A reasonable man after hearing the rejection of the bill would assume there was a logical deduction towards this end result, however, our vast oriented and intellectual senators based their assertion on how the bill will turn women to prostitutes and lesbians, grant them unfettered freedom to immoral activities and so on. I cannot address all these issues at one gulp but, this line of thought made me wonder why the freedom of females should be subjected to such scrutiny. Hence, I am of the view that this assertion is devoid of objectivity and fraught with all shreds of masculinity.

Some prominent Nigerians cited the Sharia law to validate their stance on the rejection of the bill. Basically, the constitution does not provide in express terms, basis for the Sharia Law. However, I will not evade the looming fact that the Sharia law has the backing of the constitution but due to the fact that the same constitution safeguards the fundamental rights of people, a state can in exercise of his freedom to religion, hide under the cloak that the Sharia law in itself is constitutional since the essence of the law tends to hold firm to a particular religion. That notwithstanding, the Sharia law must not be seen or done to contradict the provision of Section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended which said section abhors discrimination on any ground neither should it contravene the exceptions to existing laws as provided in the constitution which makes it subject to the repugnant clause on natural justice, equity and good conscience. All the argumentation from my analytical point of view and that of the Senate are logical deduction though not expressly provided hence left for a neutral arbiter to deduce the most logical point of view.

All these cumbersome analogies spring out of the ground that Nigeria operates a tripartite legal system namely Customary law, Sharia law and Common law and a three-pronged governance that expresses concern about the contradictions and inconsistencies of the gender equality bill but, precise caution should be exercised against the perpetuation of customary and religious practices that negatively affects Nigeria laws. The slow process of domesticating these conventions that has been with us since 1985 into Nigeria’s national legislation is an infringement on the rights of women. These diversity in our outlook towards gender equality should not pose as a cover or impediment for human right violations.

It is quite a counter intention that the outright rejection of this bill has aroused the attention of several international agencies but progress in achieving gender equality is measured by those who delivered it and those featured in it. These changes cannot be effected until we correct some of the anomalies bordering around our culture and tripartite legal system and Iam confident that my resolve holds affirmative in the words of Charlotte Bunch that; “Sexual, racial, gender violence and other forms of discrimination cannot be eliminated without changing culture.

So we just sit in observance and contribute our quota in making a difference to how this bill plays out in the end.

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Source: News Express

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