On the 15th of March, 2016, the Nigerian senate took a stand. Unfortunately, it was against the betterment of many Nigerians. A bill was being discussed on the senate floor. This bill, entitled, “The Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill” sought to reduce discrimination against women and increase equality for Nigerians nationwide. It is 2016. It is first of all shocking that such is only being addressed now, it is doubly shocking that the bill did not pass. Our Senate did not see it fit to pass the bill. It is fair to say only a fool will suggest that women do not face discrimination in Nigeria. Women suffer, a lot. This bill would not solve all of Nigeria’s problems but it would be a start. Busola Saraki says that the reason why the bill did not pass was because it “suffered a set back because some Senators disagreed with some paths”, promising that the bill would be reintroduced. The Nigerian Senate Twitter account further went to explain that the Senators disagreed on inheritance, widowhood, divorce among others.
@Omojuwa Not so. The bill suffered a set back because some Senators disagreed with some parts, Senator Olujimi will reintroduce the bill.
— Bukola Saraki (@bukolasaraki) March 15, 2016
@kayodelewu @Omojuwa @bukolasaraki some of the areas Senators disagreed with in #GEOBill included inheritance, widowhood and divorce
— Nigerian Senate (@NGRSenate) March 15, 2016
It’s important to point out that in Nigeria, there are women who are kicked out of their matrimonial home after their spouses have died. A lot of Nigerian mothers are housewives who are reliant on their husbands for upkeep. Life would already be hard if the breadwinner dies, but imagine how difficult it becomes when relatives push the widow out of her matrimonial home. Stories have been told of landlords refusing to rent out accommodation to young females simply because they are young females. This bill wanted to solve all that, and more. The bill was very comprehensive (You can read it for yourself here) and sought to fix many of the problems we can all identify. If this bill was passed, widows would automatically keep their children, would be allowed to remarry and can continue to live in her matrimonial house. The bill also would allow women to terminate pregnancies if they are a result of rape, incest, sexual assault and if the mother is at danger.
You must be thinking, “This is a great bill, where do I sign?” But you don’t sign, the bill was at the mercy of the politicians we ‘elected’ to represent us in the Senate. And so, with more Nays than Yays, the bill was buried. What is even more frustrating are the reasons brought forward by the very not ashamed of themselves Senators. According to Premium Times, “The Senate Majority leader, Ali Ndume, criticised the bill, and urged Nigerians to stick with either religious or traditional marriage” Sani Yerima claimed the bill was against the Sharia law. Another Senator against the bill was said to have the biblical perspective. I was unaware that we governed by Sharia law in the country. Are we a theocracy? It is embarrassing that our country’s religions are being used to justify human right violations. It is also funny that our politicians, probably the most immoral group of Nigerians ever, have the audacity to use the Bible and the Quran to say one thing but suddenly forget all the verses when it is time to eat from the Nigerian budget. This is why my country sickens me. I am tired of tradition and religion being used incorrectly to hinder our progress as a nation to satisfy a generation of Nigerians that has outlived its usefulness. We see it everytime we dare address a social issue in Nigeria. We should weep today, because what is supposed to be our most educated Senate obviously can not see that the world has changed, and women should be treated equally. But what do I expect from people that think it’s okay to marry 13 year olds but see no wrong in subjecting widows to dehumanizing practices. I am tired, sick and tired.