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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The gender equality bill

Editorial: Shame on Nigeria's National Assembly!

 Gender Equality Bill

It's a huge shame and setback to Nigeria's national development that the National Assembly rejected the bill on Gender Equality. By rejecting the bill on Women's Equality with men, the Nigerian Senate lost a huge opportunity for Nigeria's development in terms of legal advancement. It should be noted that development is a thing of the mind.
Development is a mindset or an intellectual thing (and this mindset reflects in the 'modernization' or 'reformation' of our laws to adapt to modern civilization and enlightened or civilized way of thinking). In other words, real development is based on education, enlightenment or the intellect, and is not just manifested in physical things such as in building infrastructure like roads or bridges or Western dressing. The attitude of many of the Northern Senators yesterday shows that they are yet to adapt to a civilized way of thinking. They are not enlightened, and that is probably because of cultural and religious baggage.
Igbos also show similar culturally un-enlightened attitude towards women because of their Patrilineal way of life which belongs to the Middle Ages!

It should be noted that Nigeria's constitution guarantees equal rights for all citizens, so when a Senator says that Women Equality is against the constitution, he is both Wrong and Right. He is Wrong because the constitution says that all citizens are equal (irrespective of gender). But he is Right because although the constitution says that all citizens are equal, there are many ways in which the same constitution makes women unequal in both theory and practice. There are many ways in which our laws contradict themselves with respect to the equality of women.
That is why both our laws or constitution need urgent reformation to reflect civilized way of thinking. The fact is that women have rights in Nigeria but they don't have Equal Rights. Having Rights is totally different from having Equal Rights. For example in Igboland, women have rights but don't have equal rights. As a result, a lot of injustices and evil are perpetrated against women especially during widowhood and also in terms of inheritance. A girl-child can't inherit equal share of property with her brother. In many cases, she is completely denied her inheritance! Even if she inherits anything, her own share is usually the least!
Again, a widow is unable to take charge of her husband's business or properties if he dies, simply because she is a woman. Yet again, a wife is not automatically assumed to be her husband's next-of-kin, which means that if the man dies without putting his legally married wife's name on paper as his next-of-kin, any money or benefits would go to the person whose name he put on paper as his official next-of-kin. This is a great injustice. That's why on several occasions when a man started work as a bachelor and forgets after marriage to change the name of his next-of-kin from his brother or mother to his legally married wife, the wife loses everything upon his death. Our laws ought to automatically make a legally married wife a man's next-of-kin irrespective of whose name he puts down on paper!

Our culture and religion should not be a setback to our development. Culture and Religion ought to help us advance, not retrogress! Patrilineal Life or patrilineal society is a thing of the past and is no longer acceptable in today's modern global society. African ethnic groups or societies should learn to move beyond Patrilineal Life and embrace the values of Universal Egalitarianism if they truly want to develop.

When we prevent women from having equal rights, we shoot ourselves in the foot by halting our own collective advancement! The fact is this: You can only keep a woman down by staying down on top of her! No wonder Donald Trump said that many Africans are only good at making love! And that is one reason why they are enemies of progress. We Africans are our own greatest enemies. The truth is that it is mostly Africans and Arabs that try to keep women down in perpetuity. That is why they (Africans and Arabs) have the most unenlightened or under-developed societies.

We need to change aspects of our culture and/or religion that violate the rights of women and prevent them from achieving Equal Rights.

Inequality is Corruption. If we truly want Nigeria to grow or develop, we must pass the Gender Equality bill and eliminate all forms of inequality that create injustice and corruption.

Imagine one senator saying that 'giving a woman equal rights violates the constitution.' What a shame! If I may ask, what is against the constitution in giving women equal rights? What kind of constitution do we run or operate in Nigeria?
Was that senator reasoning or thinking well? Or do we need psychiatric tests for our senators? What is the name of that senator? Such a senator ought to hide his face in shame. He also ought to be recalled.

It really shows their backward way of thinking. Yesterday, our senators did not act like the enlightened and educated people which we thought they are. Our senators, especially our male senators, must realize that they represent both men and women, therefore they must act or work without sentiment!

Why do we still hold fast to Patrilineal Life or male-dominated societies when the developed and powerful nations of today left it long ago with the Middle Ages?

Is our parliament made up of medieval representatives of the people, or are our representatives in the National Assembly a mere/true reflection of our society as a medieval society? Let us learn to leave our (ethnic, cultural or religious) thrash for LAWMA, so that we can move forward as a nation. There must be no sentiments when it comes to Gender Equality.

The actions of our senators yesterday shows that many Nigerians are still living in the past, and are also completely blinded and guided by sentiment, which is why we find it so difficult to move forward!


By Michael Uchebuaku.

Michael Uchebuaku is a marketing and public relations specialist and journalist in Lagos.


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