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HomeCARTA NewsSouth African Civil Society Angered By Dwindling Women’s Rights Across Africa

South African Civil Society Angered By Dwindling Women’s Rights Across Africa

24 March 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Human rights have taken another knock this past week. On 16 March 2016, Nigeria’s Senate rejected the Gender and Equal

Human rights have taken another knock this past week. On 16 March 2016, Nigeria’s Senate rejected the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, aimed at eliminating “all forms of discrimination” against women. The Bill was set to promote women’s equality in marriage, inheritance and education.

Lawmakers opposing the Bill said it is unnecessary, stating that the rights of everyone are already recognised in the Constitution. They further stated that the Bill is incompatible with Nigerian culture and religious beliefs. Religious texts and practices were cited as reasons to oppose the Bill.

However, women’s rights in Nigeria are dangerously lacking, as is evident in its discriminatory customary and religious laws pertaining to early and forced marriage, divorce, and ownership of property.

According to a 2015 UNICEF report on child marriage in Africa, 23 million girls and women in Nigeria were reportedly married as girls, making Nigeria home to the greatest number of child brides in Africa. In the southern region, customary laws allow girls to be married between 12-15 years of age, with this age dropping to 9 years in certain other regions of the country. As at 2013, 17% of women reported to have been married by the age of 15 and 43% reported to have been married by the age of 18.

Sharia law recognises four main types of divorce – none of which allow women the freedom to initiate divorce without heavy investigation into the ‘truth’ of her accusations and reasons for wanting a divorce – or that do not necessitate her having  to pay a marriage termination fine. Moreover, under customary law, only men have the right to own land and a widow cannot inherit marital property.

“In many instances, religious and cultural texts support women’s rights, but these texts are hardly ever referenced. Instead, people rely on a narrow reading so that they can use this to justify the negation of women’s human rights,” says Tanya Charles, Policy Development and Advocacy Specialist at Sonke Gender Justice.

The rejection of the Bill exposes the underlying deep-seated misogyny still prevalent across the continent and is one stone in the mosaic of gender inequality permeating our societies. Of concern is that patriarchal attitudes are influencing policy-making processes and preventing the full realisation of women’s human rights.

It appears we are taking numerous steps back instead of striving forwards towards equality for all across the continent.

The South African National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence campaign stands with activists in Nigeria and urges Senators to reconsider their stance on the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill. True freedom and democracy is only achieved in a gender equal society.

XXXX

Signed:

The National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence Campaign – a coalition of 35 civil society organisations.

This press release is endorsed by:

New World Foundation
Sonke Gender Justice
Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
World AIDS Campaign International
Greater Rape Intervention Programme

Media Contacts:

Ade Johnson
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
ade.johnson@up.ac.za
012 420 4306

Tshilidzi Masikhwa
Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme
legalofficer@tvep.org.za
079 583 2986

Lungile Kubheka
Greater Rape Intervention Programme
ceo@grip.org.za
073 588 6062

COMMENTS

  • April 5, 2016

    Family Relief and Societal Health Initiative (FReSHI)

    I commend the effort of those who pushed the gender and equal right opportunity bill to point of rejection.The tenacity is highly commendable in a strongly patriarchal society like Nigeria. I can imagine the opposition it might have encountered in getting it to face the lawmakers to point of reading it. The gender inequality is endemic and it is driven in the name of “it is cultural” by those whose mothers, sisters, daughters have experienced it. It is a battle that can be won, but I do not know how? because even many religious leaders will likely oppose it, most of them are men, as we have them as political leaders too. Perhaps, if we have men advocates who are researchers in the field of gender-based violence fronting the bill presentation and leading the crusade, it will give it a different picture from seeing it as “women want to overthrow us” which is very threatening culturally. We ask men to approve laws against themselves? they do not see the actions in we are questioning and fighting, they see the perpetrators who are men like them and signing such bill, women will use it beyond addressing the actions in question. It is like shooting their own selves in the leg. Women should relax their forces and use it to support men advocates who have the passion for this course “women’s rights”. They should come to the forefront and push further in a way that any male gender can accept it.

  • April 5, 2016

    Family Relief and Societal Health Initiative (FReSHI)

    I commend the effort of those who pushed the gender and equal right opportunity bill to point of rejection.The tenacity is highly commendable in a strongly patriarchal society like Nigeria. I can imagine the opposition it might have encountered in getting it to face the lawmakers to point of reading it. The gender inequality is endemic and it is driven in the name of “it is cultural” by those whose mothers, sisters, daughters have experienced it. It is a battle that can be won, but I do not know how? because even many religious leaders will likely oppose it, most of them are men, as we have them as political leaders too. Perhaps, if we have men advocates who are researchers in the field of gender-based violence fronting the bill presentation and leading the crusade, it will give it a different approach. Women should relax their forces and use it to support men advocates who have the passion for this course “women’s rights”. They should come to the forefront and push further in a way that any male gender can accept it.