Senate Again Rejects Gender Equality Bill, Says Its Against Constitution, Islam

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ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – For the third time, the Senate, on Tuesday, rejected a bill seeking to domesticate the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) conventions that are aimed at ending discrimination against women by empowering them.

But the sponsor of the bill, Senator Biodun Olujimi, who accused some male members of the upper legislative chamber of deliberately killing the bill, however, expressed optimism that it would one day pass into law.

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Sundiata Post recalls that the bill, which seeks to politically and economically empower women, as well as guarantee equal opportunities to the women folk with men in diverse human endeavours, had also suffered similar fate in the 6th and 7th Senate.

It was entitled: “A bill for an Act to incorporate and enforce certain provisions of the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the Protocol of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the rights of women in Africa, and other matters connected therewith, 2016 (SB. 116)”.

Those who opposed to the bill argued that most of its provisions were in conflict with the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.

This was the same reason given by lawmakers in both the 6th and 7th Senate, when similar bill was also killed.

The proposal, which was scheduled to pass second reading, initially received the support of some senators, but suddenly suffered a setback before finally suffering death on the floor of the Red Chamber, as the debates progressed.

Presenting her lead debate on the bill, Olujimi said that it had become imperative for the law to be put in place in the effort to liberate women from all forms of discrimination, suppression and oppression in the country.

In his contribution to the Bill, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, observed that what Nigerians needed to achieve in the goals being sought by the bill is education rather than legislation.

He also cautioned that the parliament should be careful not to make laws that would put people in bondage instead of liberating them from restrictive legalistic tendencies.

A former Governor of Zamfara State, Senator Ahmed Sani, who vehemently kicked against the proposal, said that most of its provisions contradicted the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.

He, therefore, urged the Senate to either kill the proposal, or ask the sponsor to withdraw it, rework it and remove all the insertions that run contrary to the Constitution.

Senator Adamu Aliero, who also kicked against the bill, noted that it was not only in conflict with the Constitution, but also the Sharia and Common laws.

Aliero, who insisted that there was no need for the Senate to proceed with the bill because it would end in futility, stressed that he was certain that the proposal would not scale through.

In his views, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, argued that, if allowed to pass into law, the bill would work against morality in the society.

He particularly claimed that women would take advantage of the provisions to indulge in unhindered freedom that would worsen the rate of moral decadence in the polity.

When the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, put the bill to voice vote, those who rejected the document overwhelmed those in support, and the initiative died.

Reacting to the development, shortly after the plenary, Olujimi regretted that the equal opportunity bill had been killed each time it came up.

Olujimi, who accused some male members of the Chamber of deliberately killing the Bill, alleged that it was because they wanted to continue to relegate and subjugate women.

She, however, expressed optimism that the bill would one day become law, so that women would have their rightful place in the society.

“This equal opportunities bill has been coming in and out for quite sometime and the men have been shooting it down. The idea is simple and all we wanted to do was to ensure that those covenants that Nigeria is a signatory to, are incorporated in our laws.

“For instance, the procedure is assented to by Nigeria and that is the crux of this bill but most laws especially from a particular religion have a clash between their religion and what we mean by gender parity.

“In gender parity, women must be equal to men and they find it not very palatable and that is the reason for the bill not passing each time it comes. This is not the first time it would be shot down; it has been shot down in the past but you see, we are trying to make a point that, as women we deserve to be recognised.

“I think at one point we would get it right because like every agitation when you keep agitating people refuse but at a point somebody will say let it be and I know we will get there.

“Well, we will go look at the equal opportunities bill because what we do was to bring out a section of it, it was not assented to by the last government that is why we decided to bring it out in portions. We would go and look at it again, we will go back to the drawing board and see how best we can still bring this gender parity issue on to the front burner.

“I don’t think it is the senate. I think there are pockets of people within the senate who do not want their women empowered, who do not believe that the time has come for a woman to be equal to a man and I think that is also for a short while, is getting shorter by the day. We will get there,” she said.

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