NIGERIA’S JOURNEY TO GENDER INCLUSIVITY; EXAMINING THE GENDER EQUALITY OPPORTUNITY BILL

NIGERIA’S JOURNEY TO GENDER INCLUSIVITY; EXAMINING THE GENDER EQUALITY OPPORTUNITY BILL

Nigeria has evolved over time in technology, education, political ideologies, and even social ideologies. In other words, Nigeria is evolving with time. At least that is what appears to be happening. To ascertain just how evolved Nigeria has become we must observe Nigeria’s policies and their implementation. The area of focus for this article is “Gender inclusivity” in Nigeria, with that in mind we will be examining the gender Equality Opportunity Bill.

Has Nigeria really evolved when it comes to gender inclusivity? The answer to this question would vary depending on your gender and status. This is because the quality of life you will have in Nigeria is dependent on how much money you have and what gender you are.

The word gender is a generic term, normally used to indicate the distinction between humans on the basis of the masculinity/femininity dichotomy. It is commonly used co-terminously with sex to connote or denote the male-female divide in the society. It is also regarded as a socio-cultural construct that assigns roles, attitudes, and values, considered appropriate for each sex. This stereotyping has also lead to the dogmatic propagation of gender bias as an accepted pattern of behavior, which has crept into all aspects of our lives, including education (Obielumani, 2010).

 

The definition above is a good way to define gender in Nigeria.  In Nigeria, gender has become a socio-cultural construct that assigns roles, attitudes, and values, considered appropriate for each sex. A good question to ask would be; who exactly assigns these roles, attitudes, and values? The answer would be our government. That is why we will take a look at policies regarding gender in Nigeria. It would be good to note that most policies regarding gender in Nigeria are opting to bridge the gap of inequality between men and women, that is to say, there is an obvious gap between the male gender and female gender in all aspects of living in Nigeria that must be shortened. Gender inclusivity put simply is to include both genders in all sectors of the economy without discrimination. Nigeria has never claimed to be gender inclusive, if anything, from observing its policies we can arrive at the conclusion that it is not gender inclusive. A good place to start from will be “The gender equality opportunity bill”.

The gender equality opportunity bill was first presented by Christina Anyanwu to the national parliament in 2010. The bill covers a wide range of issues concerning gender discrimination that will aid both men and women.

It seeks to guarantee the rights of women to equal opportunities in employment; equal rights to inheritance for both male and female children; equal rights for women in marriage and divorce, equal access to education, property/land ownership, and inheritance; protects the rights of widows; guarantee appropriate measures against gender discrimination in political and public life and ensure the prohibition of violence towards women. The bill was not passed.

 On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, the law was presented for first reading at the plenary, most senators voted against the bill. Some modifications regarding inheritance and widow’s rights were made to the bill and after five months later the bill got a second reading because of these modifications, however, in March 2018 it was rejected. 

Speaking on the Senate floor, Senator Sani Yerima of the All Nigeria Peoples Party said: “For the bill to provide that a widow shall automatically become the guardian and custodian of her children is in conflict with the Nigerian constitution. Where it also said widows shall have the right to an equitable share in the inheritance of the property of her husband is also in conflict with Nigerian constitution … this law cannot stand.”

Nigeria’s Marriage Act of 1990 says a woman is entitled to at least one-third of her husband’s estate. But this law only applies to women who are married under statutory law, and only if the husband has a will. It does not apply to women married under customary or Muslim law. Some customary and statutory laws in parts of Nigeria dictate that wives and daughters do not have the authority to inherit anything at all.

On Tuesday, November 2019 Senator Biodun Olujimi reintroduced the gender equality opportunity bill. So far that is what we know about the bill.

Several people have argued that there is no need for the bill because the Nigerian constitution already sufficiently protects the rights of women in Nigeria. It makes sense to say this since Section 15(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) provides that “Accordingly, national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religious status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited” and 

Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides broad protection for all and sundry; specifically, Section 42(1) prohibits discrimination based on‘sex’ and the same is enforceable. However, the same constitution states in  Section 26 that a foreign woman married to a Nigerian man is eligible for Nigerian citizenship, but the same right is not granted to a foreign man married to a Nigerian woman. Take a look at Section 131, which lists the qualifications for the office of the president, it uses the word “he,” suggesting that only a man can be president. The Constitution generally uses the words “he,” “his” and “him,” and doesn’t include female pronouns. Also, Section 29 deals with modes of renunciation of Nigerian citizenship. Subsection 29[4][b] recognizes a married woman, but not a married man, who avails herself of this Subsection as being of full age. This implies that a girl married at age 12 shall be treated as an adult (11).

It is clear to see that while the Nigerian constitution has made efforts to protect women in Nigeria its efforts are simply not as effective or efficient as it should be. The gender equality opportunity bill proposes a much-needed change. If passed the law will state that 35 percent of ministers in Nigeria’s government have to be women, as well as 20 percent of state commissioners, who oversee policy at the state level. Currently, women occupy just 7 percent of elected positions in Nigeria. The bill also seeks to uphold 18 as the minimum age to get married in Nigeria. UNICEF statistics show that 44 percent of Nigerian girls are married by the age of 18.

These statistics are very promising, especially when compared with Nigeria’s previous statistics which we will be taking a look at. 

There are several sectors of an economy, for this article, we will be taking a look at education, labor force/work, and politics/decision making.

For education data from the Federal Ministry of education shows that the completion rate for girls in a primary, junior, and senior secondary school in 2016 was 64.8 percent, 38.9 percent, and 28.7 percent respectively, showing a decreased completion rate as the student progresses.

For labor, the percentage of men employed in the State Civil Service for 2010 to 2015 was higher than that of women for both senior and junior positions. On average the percentage of women employees from 2010 to 2015 was 38.16 percent for both junior and senior positions while it was 68.84 percent, men, for both of the subgroups. Also, in federal MDA’s(Ministries, Departments, and agencies), men dominated the civil service, as women on grade level 01 – 17 plus the special grade level was below 42 percent in 2014 – 2016.

In politics and decision making there is little to no representation of women at all tiers and levels of government. Finding reveals that there is 94.71 percent of men and 5.76 percent of women at the National Parliament from 1999 to 2015 (National Assembly). At federal courts, 29.38 percent of judges were female while 70.62 percent were male according to 2011 – 2016 National Judicial Council. State Assemblies also has only  5.29 percent female and 94.71 percent male from 1999 – 2015 (State House of Assembly). In 1999 – 2015 at the local government level, female chairpersons had 9 percent and male 91 percent. Councilors also constituted 5.9 percent female as against 94.1 percent male. Presently, the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments in Nigeria is 3.38 percent which is the lowest value Nigeria has ever recorded. The highest value over the past 19 years was only  7.00 in 2010. There are only seven female senators in the 9th assembly. 

From these statistics, it is clear that Nigeria still has a long way in achieving gender inclusivity. In fact, it would make one wonder if a male-dominated government will take into consideration the needs of women.  

While pursuing change in policies that influence gender Inclusivity it will also be important for the government to pursue appropriate implementation of such policies in Nigeria because it is clear that the prevalent laws that protect women in Nigeria are not being implemented appropriately.

On that note, the gender equality opportunity bill might be one of many steps Nigeria can take in enabling a more inclusive environment for women in Nigeria.

 

Written by Onyinyechi Ihesiaba.

Reference :

Statistical report on women and men in Nigeria 2017

GENDER DISCRIMINATION IN NIGERIAN SCHOOL SYSTEM(Nakpodia, E. D. & Urien, James,Department of Educational Administration and Policy Studies, Delta State University, Abraka – Nigeria.)

Nigeria’s Looming Election Puts Gender Equality Bill in Peril (deeply.the new humanitarian by Toluwani Eniola) Index mundi

 

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