Revisiting laws against women’s rights and freedom
On September 16, 2022, a 22-year-old Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini died in Tehran, Iran, under suspicious circumstances, potentially due to police brutality.
The woman’s death led to countrywide protests by Iranian women against the government. It is worrisome that women can easily lose their lives by not covering their hair the right way. These absurd laws that dictate how a woman should live are common in most Asia and African countries.
Examples of such laws are the inheritance laws against women in Eastern Nigeria, money wives stories in South Eastern Nigeria, and much more. There is a need to tackle these issues through sensitisation, abolishment of harmful practices and enactment of laws.
Thirty years after the first world conference on women in Mexico, women are still sensitising the world on why these inhumane laws against women are unacceptable. While many argue that these laws protect women, there has been a high rate of domestic violence and sexual and physical abuse against women.
According to a report given by the UN, approximately 736 million women (equal to almost one in three) have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their life.
The above recent statistics from the UN show that the laws have done nothing to reduce the violence against women. Besides, laws are meant to protect the people and not harm them. The moment these laws start taking lives, they should be revised. Mahsa Amini is one of the many women who have died under the law meant to protect them.
In a report released by UNESCO, 52 million girls are not in school in Africa, while 4 million will never step into a classroom compared to 2 million boys. The report shows that education in Africa is only accessible to a few women. However, the few women with access to education are not exempted from dealing with patriarchal traditions and cultures that trample on their rights.
One of the excuses holders of these inhuman laws has is the fact that these laws are meant for the protection of women in their country. But what we see is that these laws infringe on the rights of women to association, movement, and freedom of expression. Therefore, African leaders need to focus more on enacting laws against predators rather than making laws that focus on what women in the country should or not do.
In the case of Betty Kavata, who was beaten and violated by her husband, the Kenyan government passed laws against domestic abuse to curb it. It is not just in making laws, but the bodies in charge must ensure that these laws are strictly adhered to.
Anybody who is found violating anything of these laws should be made to face the consequences. It will help protect women more instead of making laws that focus on trampling on women’s rights.
Furthermore, women need to be educated to be given platforms to be in power and make decisions on women-sensitive issues. The number of women in political positions compared to men is alarmingly disproportionate. More women in power will lead to the abolishment of practices that do not promote gender equality.
The first female Ngoni chief in Malawi, Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, channelled her newfound power and influence to eradicate child marriage in Malawi which has saved over 3000. Also, Jacinda Ardern, the 40th prime minister of New Zealand, ensured and championed the Equal Pay Amendment bill in July 2020.
This bill introduces a practical and accessible process to raise and consider claims of systemic sex-based pay undervaluation in female-dominated occupations. With more women in power, better laws supporting women’s rights will be enacted.
There is a need for the abolishment of laws policing women and a need for sensitisation of the negative impact these laws have on women. The sensitisation needs to be done at the local level through house-to-house campaigns, town hall meetings, conferences, and women empowerment to eliminate structural drivers of inequality and foster social norms that prioritise equality and equity. Gabon is doing a great job reforming its Civil code and promulgating a law on eliminating violence towards women.
The World Bank reported that the country’s score on the women’s rights board had moved up from 57.5 per cent to 82.5 percent. The report from Gabon proves that if African countries prioritise reforming harmful laws and practices, violence against women will be eliminated.
The need to abolish most practices against women is crucial to the development of society. Women are humans who deserve the right to live, move and be. The inhumane practices held against women have done more harm to these women than protect them. No women deserve to die because they choose to live the way they want.
Oluwabukola is a writing fellow at the African Liberty.
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