Women Rights Bill scale second reading in the Senate
A bill for an Act to incorporate and enforce certain provisions of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women passed second reading in Senate on Thursday.
The Bill, sponsored by the Deputy Minority Whip, Sen. Biodun Olujimi, also seeks to incorporate and enforce the protocol to African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the rights of women in Africa.
Leading debate on the bill, Olujimi said the bill sought to elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
She added that the bill further made provision for the adoption of temporary special measures to eliminate discrimination and ensure equal opportunities for majority of Nigerians.
The lawmaker said that though Nigeria was a signatory to UN Charters on rights of women in Africa, most of the charters had not been domesticated.
According to her, the law also proposes some modifications to some of the country’s socio-cultural practices that promote discrimination and gender-based inequality.
“The bill, when passed into law, will also make it the responsibility of all public or private institutions and all entities in Nigeria to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women.
“This is with a view to achieving the elimination of gender stereotyping and prejudices.
“The bill helps eliminate customary and all other practices which were based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes, or the roles for men and women.
“These special measures cover political and public sphere in offices, positions, or appointments, employment opportunities, credit or other economic sphere in the public or private.’’
According to her, the bill will ensure that a minimum of 35 per cent be reserved for women.
“In the case of educational placement and school enrolment, including award of scholarships, bursaries, or such allocations‚ parity will be ensured for boys and girls, men and women.
“And in the case of primary school enrolment, mechanisms should be put in place to ensure parity in enrolment and retention of boys and girls,’’ she said.
Olujimi, who lamented the rejection of the bill earlier in the year, had accused some male members of the Upper Chamber of killing the bill.
She said women in Nigeria had suffered discrimination in all spheres of life, ranging from lack of appointment to decision making positions to lack of right to inheritance.
She urged her colleagues to ensure that the bill scaled through to protect their rights including 35 per cent affirmation.
She said that other nations of the world were waiting to see what Africa would do to utilise potentials inherent in their women.
Contributing, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, urged the Senate to pass the bill for second reading.
He, however, cautioned that it should be thoroughly scrutinised at the committee level during public hearing to ensure that its provisions did not conflict with the Constitution.
He recalled that he had “warned against passing the Freedom of Information Act because what it sought to achieve were duly covered by the Constitution, resulting in unnecessary duplication of laws in the country’’.
Sen. Oluremi Tinubu (APC-Lagos Central), appealed to her colleagues to review the Constitution and ensure adequate accommodation and protection of women in the scheme of things.
She decried that only few women were elected to the Senate in the last National Assembly elections, adding that the situation was intimidating to the womenfolk who found themselves there.
Sen. Binta Garba, (APC-Adamawa North), said that Section 147 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (Amended) provided for federal character principle to be applied in every form of sharing in the country.
She urged that affirmative action should also be adhered to in the distribution of political offices and other things, saying, “Women are partners in progress and not rivals”.
The Chief Whip, Sen. Olusola Adeyeye, regretted that the worst form of discrimination in human society was discrimination against women.
He said that the Senate would continue to promote equality of women in the distribution of positions and in all other issues for sharing in the country.
According to him, women are naturally 50 per cent of men’s population, hence, discrimination against them under any guise is a discrimination against God.
Adeyeye added that culture had oppressed women for long and urged the Senate to ensure the protection of Women’s rights.
“Mr. President, I rise to enthusiastically support this bill, the worst form of discrimination is gender discrimination.
“The Senate must ensure their rights, we have federal character; let’s also have gender character,’’ he said.
In his remarks, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, assured of Senate’s strong support for equal rights for women.
The bill received overwhelming support and passed for second reading.
It was then referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, for further legislative action.