Image Credit: Bella Naija

#GEOBill: Nigerian Men React to Rejection of  Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill

On March 15 2016, the Nigerian senate rejected the Gender and Equal Opportunities bill (#GEOBill) designed to grant women the same marital rights as their husbands on scriptural and constitutional grounds. The bill which was presented by Abiodun Olujimi, a senator from Ekiti state, seeks to give women equal rights in marriage, education and job. Olujimi, who is also the deputy minority whip of the senate, said if the bill is passed,  a widow would automatically become the custodian of children in the event of the death of her husband, and would also inherit his property.

However, people like Senator Sani Yerima from Zamfara state, expressed aversion to the bill; arguing that it was in conflict with the Nigerian constitution. Other senators who opposed the bill rejected it in its second reading based on the fact that it negates the principles of Sharia law and the provisions of the constitution.

The rejection of the Gender and Equal Opportunities bill is a blow to women’s rights activism and the survival of the family system in Nigeria. According to a press release by a women-led advocacy group, “the implication of throwing out the Gender and Equal Opportunities bill is that the incidences of rape, domestic violence, maternal mortality, poverty e.t.c, which have been ravaging our country will continue unchallenged. The dismissal of that bill essentially undermines the contributions Nigerian women are making towards our national development.”

Rural Reporters spoke to some Nigerian men and here is their reaction to the rejection of the bill:

Osita Charles Nwankwo

My opinion is that they (Nigerian Senators) are still living in the Stone Age. Men like those honourables are likely to stone a woman for improper dressing or worse, execute her via the nefarious honour killing mania of most bigots. (The implication is that) social and economic development will be stagnant and won’t grow because 50% of the population is deemed an extra tyre.

Nwoye Divine Destiny

Yes. I align myself with the lawmakers considering our traditional belief system and religious value which everyone wants to protect. A similar thing happened in Enugu State legislative arm where such bill was voted down. I do think the right solely demanded by the woman have be given to them but equality of both sexes is what I disagree with. Even in traditional and religious placement women are supposes to be other the men; except for some bill that will punish men who engage in domestic violence.

Jeremiah O. Agenyi

Just like most of our leaders’ attitudes to laws that bother on cultural or religious matters, what I see is Hypocrisy, Fear and Self-Centeredness of most of the senators. Their unwillingness to engage in dialogue on the matter shows their insensitivity, disinterest and lack of progressiveness. Any interested party will call for dialogue and come up a resolution that works for all, and discard what does not work. Why else would you throw away the baby with the bath water?

The Books (Bible & Quran) they cited was interpreted to best fit their beliefs, insincerity and insecurity, not as it is meant to be. You weigh the law in the light of parties involved too, not just on your own terms. And by the way, a law is made for the people, not the people for the law. If something is not working, it should be reviewed.

However, we must not forget passion of the proponent of the bill, Senator Biodun christine Olujimi, the Senate President and all those who supported it. It is a sign of hope that the #GEOBill will see the light of day.

Wale Ayiedogbon

Naija (Nigeria) is a male dominant nation.  Equal rights in Naija is a laughable matter. They are too stuck in their caveman mindset. Nigeria is the only place where a woman is a fault for getting abused by a man. Man rapes a woman and they question the woman for her dress. Naija is a mess jare.

Godwin E Morka

I think they are hiding behind religion to express their insecurities and chauvinism. Neither the Bible nor the Quran makes women inferior to men. The Bible emphasises complementarity, not superiority or inferiority.  (The implication on Nigeria social and economic development is) perpetuation of discrimination and inequalities.

Kayode Abubakar

Upon going through the draft, I must confess that the bill as sponsored by Senator Abiodun Olujimi seeking to promote equal opportunities, advancement of all persons, prohibition of violence against women etc is a very important bill and very strategic to the development of our country Nigeria especially the parts that emphasized key areas like: -Equal Access to Education, -Strengthening of the laws on Violence against Women, -Ending Abduction of girls, Sustenance and Promotion of Entrepreneurship opportunities, -Gender Mainstreaming and Gender equality, -Female participation in governance, etc. More-so, considering the stance of the UN through “The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women”, it is even more important that we unite to embrace this as a good developmental initiative. We have to tap into and explore the potentials of Nigerian women. Meanwhile, the role of women to nation building cannot be overemphasised. In the words of Senator Stella Oduah: “Women are the bedrock of governance and should be allowed equal opportunities to represent the true meaning of their existence.”

As a nation, we must endeavour to provide that soothing and enabling environment for the growth and maximum development of the potentials and the innate abilities of our women. However, as a nation, especially as diverse as Nigeria. Religion, Culture, Tradition and the subject of patriarchy is a very sensitive one and will always find its way into almost all of our national discourse. I guess, the bill was toned down primarily due to these aforementioned tendencies.

The good news is that, upon my enquiry, Mummy Olujimi the senator who sponsored the bill has taken note of all the reservations and contributions of her colleagues and she has confirmed that she will definitely work on it and represent it to the Senate. So, we all have that responsibility to sensitize, re-orientate, and educate our people on the exact status or situation with this bill. We should not be emotionally charged and just absorb the narratives of western media houses like BBC, AFP etc. To me they have all failed to present the exact narrative on this particular issue putting into cognizance the socio-political and ethno-religious perspectives of Nigeria.

Laz Ude Eze

The Bible I read encourages men to love their women. Jesus loved children including young girls. He told the woman accused of adultery to go and sin no more. The Senate’s action is outrageous and shameful. Equal rights for women is not same as disrespect for men. I hope the 8th Senate reverse this decision by passing this law when represented and remove themselves from ignominious side of history before the end of their session.

Niyi Ajayi

They are hypocrite even the bible voted equality of man and woman – See 1Peter. 3:7(we are heir together of the grace of life).  1 Peter 3:7(MSG): The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground. 1 Peter 3:7 (MSG).

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7(NLT).


What do you think of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill?

Busayo Sotunde is a prolific writer with special focus on Business, Entrepreneurship, Reproductive Health and other development issues in Africa. Her articles have been published by different outlets including Investing Port and She has a penchant for reading and sustainable development. Follow Busayo on Twitter @BusayomiSotunde

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