Nigeria Senate rejects bill on gender equality

Members of the Nigerian senate today March 15th, voted against the Gender Equality in Marriage bill which was being sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi.

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.

As the debate for and against the bill went on the floor of the Senate today, most of the senators voted against the bill when Senate President Bukola Saraki, called for a vote for it to pass for 2nd reading. During the debate, 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 will 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 become 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.” he said.

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.”

However Senator Sani Yerima, who is a former Zamfara state, spoke strongly against the bill.

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