.INSECURITY: Beyond lamentation of National Assembly

…Say proposed law won’t affect the balance of power between men, women

By Luminous Jannamike, ABUJA

Stakeholders and rights’ activists, on Monday, called on the National Assembly to speed up action on the passing into law of the Bill on Gender and Equal Opportunities (GEO Bill).

They spoke at a discussion forum tagged ‘The Men Conversations’ organised by Women Radio 91.7FM and supported by the United Nations (UN) women in Abuja.

The GEO bill, championed by the senator representing Ekiti South, Biodun Olujimi, aims at imposing certain measures to address past and current discriminatory practices, especially against women.

It was first rejected in March 2016 when some male lawmakers argued that the Nigerian Constitution was clear on the rights of citizens, including women.

However, the discussants at the event argued that the proposed legislation was not meant to alter the traditional balance of power between the sexes but to promote national development.

Speaking the Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, Mr Samson Itodo, described Nigeria as a nation that has failed to prioritise the needs and priorities of women.

He said: “We are a society that excludes and subjugate women. If all persons are indeed equal then everyone should have access to equal opportunities regardless of gender, religion or ethnic extraction.

“For people that think men are superior to women, they need to have a rethink. We may be a religious or traditional society but the fact is we are all human so we can’t justify exclusion on the basis of religion.

“When we talk about equal opportunities, it is not about trying to alter the balance of power and strip men of the so-called power they have, it is about the development of the society”, he stated.

Speaking also, the Executive Director, Center for Human Rights in Islam, Prof. Mustapha Ismail, knocked those opposed to the passage of the Bill on the basis of religion and culture.

Ismail argued that those who stood as stumbling blocks to the passage of the bill under the guise of religion did so out of ignorance, regretting that religion and culture were now used as cover to defend injustice against women and girls.

Clarifying the position of Islam on gender equity, he explained that Islam, from inception, had been sensitive to the plight of the oppressed in the society, especially women.

“This is evident from the Holy book. Islam grants women one form of rights and another and even takes care of harmful practise and discrimination.

“Islam speaking out against violence, discrimination against women is not new. During the lifetime of the prophet, women collectively and individually spoke out for justice, rights, and stoppage of discrimination against them. During that time, Young girls came out to the court in front of the prophet to sue their fathers once they impose upon them husbands”, he added.

Also, a development specialist, Opeyemi Oriniowo, said Nigeria ranked among the 20 worst countries for a woman to live in.

Citing the 2021 World Economic Forum data on the Gender gap, which rated Nigeria 139 out of 156, Oriniowo observed women access to opportunities in the country has reduced in the last five years.

“Out of 100,000 birth, 160 lose their lives. As we speak Nigeria is among the 20 worst countries for a woman to live in. Also on the list is Yemen, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo. These are countries on the verge of war, some about to be declared full conflict zone. All that shows that women in Nigeria are not where they are supposed to be.

“We didn’t achieve the MDGs and if we don’t take women as a catalyst to the achievement of the SDGs, we are only paying lip service. If our concern is nation-building and human capital development, women had been shown to be the catalyst for doing that”, he added.

On his part, Director, Africa Office of the MacArthur Foundation, Dr Kole Shettima, emphasised the need for men to speak out against injustice perpetrated against women.

He stressed the need for men to lead the struggle for the liberation of those who are not privileged to be in power.

Shettima added: “The struggle around GEOB is a struggle for liberating ourselves. It is an opportunity for us to challenge our privileges, to challenge our power and to say there are certain things we as men as come to enjoy and to know that’s our responsibility to contribute towards the liberation of society by being fair and just to all segment of the society”

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