Enugu Lawmakers Reject Bill Seeking Gender Equality

The members of the state house of assembly of Enugu have rejected a bill seeking to establish equality between men and women in Enugu State. The proposed law, known as ‘Equal Rights and Opportunities for Men and Women and Other Matters Related Thereto Bill’, was sponsored by a female member of the House, Hon. Dame Nkechi Omeje-Ogbu, representing Nsukka West Constituency.
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Omeje-Ogbu is also the chairman of the House Committee on Gender Affairs. The bill had scaled first reading before suffering a setback during a debate on Tuesday, with most of the male members kicking out viciously against it.

It was described as ‘anti-cultural’ and ‘un-African’.

The bill would have been rejected outright, had the Speaker, Hon. Edward Ubosi, not intervened by suggesting that it should be stepped down for reconsideration on a future, unspecified date.

Before then, the sponsor, Omeje-Ogbu, had explained that the ‘Enugu State Equal Opportunities Bill’, if passed into law, would protect all persons from discrimination on the basis of gender, in private and public places.

According to her, the bill provided “protection for women’s bodies, integrity, dignity and would affirm their right to equal opportunities to realise their full potentials”. She added that the bill was also seeking positions and appointments for the women of Enugu State, noting that marriage, divorce and widowhood should not deny them (women) their rights.

However, many lawmakers spoke out against the bill. The member representing Awgu North Constituency, Hon. Sunny Ude-Okoye, said that he would not be a party to the bill ‘because here is Africa and not America’. Ude-Okoye suggested that if anybody wishes to embrace practices as suggested in the bill, such a person should relocate to America.

“I have risen to declare my stand, I have risen to take my stand that this is a colossal waste. Other lawmakers were rising against the bill when the Speaker, Ubosi, suggested that it be stepped down for wider consultation.

Ubosi said the bill would be reconsidered in the future. Thanking the sponsor, Omeje-Ogbu, for the bill, the Speaker said it would not be proper to kill it ‘prematurely’, even though most of the lawmakers had strong feelings against it.

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