RE: Nigerian Senate Rejection of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill (GEOB).

Lagos, 17th March 2016 – The rejection of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill (GEOP) by members of Nigeria’s Senate on Tuesday the 15th of March 2016, did not come as a surprise, given the consistent indications of trivializing gender related issues observed in the present political dispensation in Nigeria which also has the lowest representation of women in key elective and appointive decision making positions since 2007. The Nigerian parliament as presently constituted has roughly 4% of female members of parliament. The overwhelming rejection of the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill by a male dominated legislature is a clear indication of why more women are needed in decision making positions in order to safeguard the erosion of their rights and welfare.
We recall that in the just concluded 2015 general elections in the country, Nigerian women voted overwhelming for CHANGE but are now faced with rights impediment by male politicians who clearly do not have any interest in promulgating laws aimed at protecting and safeguarding women’s rights as guaranteed in international instruments such as; The Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Women and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (The Protocol) ratified by the Nigerian Government in 1985 and 2003 respectfully. The Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill sponsored by Senator Biodun Christine Olujimi, if allowed to be passed into law would have provided the opportunity for the domestication of these instruments into Nigerian Law.  We hereby unequivocally state that ‘THIS IS NOT THE CHANGE NIGERIAN WOMEN WANT AND VOTED FOR’.
The NFF wishes to applaud the tenacity of Senator Olujimi who has consistently advocated for the advancement of the rights of women in Nigeria and has been very vocal in promoting the GEOB to members of the legislature and the general public. A close examination of the proposed Gender and Equal Opportunities bill shows that it seeks to guarantee the rights of women to access; 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 and guarantee appropriate measures against gender discrimination in political and public life and the prohibition of violence towards women. Why the majority of the Nigerian senators voted against the bill is beyond the rational of our understanding.
It is pertinent to mention here the detrimental role played by the infamous Senator Sani Yerima in shutting down the GEOB. Yerima is a sitting member of parliament, a former Zamfara State governor and a Child-Bride advocate who married a child bride from Egypt in 2013.  Yerima not only opposed this important bill but encouraged others to do so claiming it was against the tenets of his religion. Contrary to Yerima’s views, Senate leader, Ali Ndume, in calling for the passage of the bill argued that the bill will afford men and women in marriage the same equal rights as there is a gaping contrast between our traditional beliefs and our religious beliefs, regarding the protection of women rights. But as it turned out when put to the vote the Nays had it.
Tuesday’s event at the senate is a clear indication that the present senate is not in tune with the present realities facing Nigerian women, from increased insecurity to sexual assault, abduction and forced marriages. The passing of the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill would have indicated Nigeria was ready to empower women through gender equality and equal opportunities.
The NFF will like to use this medium to call on the leaders and members of Nigeria’s legislative houses to;
  1. Swiftly reintroduce the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill for an informed debate on the floor of the chambers;
  2. Reintroduce the GEOB into the Senate on the Executive and not Residual list. We are tired of having laws pertaining to women applicable only in ABUJA.
  3. Consult members of civil society organizations (CSOs) specifically the women’s movement for better analysis & informed positions on the gender & equal opportunities Bill.
  4. Pass without delay, the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill when re-introduced for reading at the floor of the legislative chambers
Members of the press and media to;
  1. Continue to support and sustain media advocacy needed for the successful passing of the GEOB and;
  2. Keep issues concerning the welfare of women in the front pages of the news.
Civil Society organizations and members of the public to;
  1.  Sustain social media campaigns and engagements on issues affecting women in Nigeria;
  2. Come out en-masse on Wednesday the 23rd of March 2016 by 10am at the Lagos Television (LTV) compound, for a peaceful protest against the withdrawal of the GEOB. (Dress Code is Black T-shirt/Blouse/Hijab/Skirt/Trouser)
  3. We also encourage CSO’s and individuals outside of Lagos to organize and carry out similar peacefully protest in various cities.
Geraldyn Ezeakile
Nigerian Feminist Forum Secretariat

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