Why Nigerian Senators Reject Gender Equality Bill
For the 3rd time in 5 years, the Nigerian senators have rejected a bill that sought to promote gender equality in the country. The gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainability in Nigeria. There has been progress over the last 10 years globally.
More girls are going to school, fewer girls are forced into early marriage, more women are serving in parliament and positions of leadership, and laws are being reformed to advance gender equality.
But, despite all these progress, many challenges remain
- Discriminatory laws and social norms remain pervasive
- Women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership
- 1 in 5 women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 report experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner within a 12-month period.
The effect of COVID-19 pandemic and the new OMICRON could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights. The outbreak of coronavirus in the World has exacerbate existing inequalities for women and girls across every sphere – from health and the economy, to security and social protection.
Women are now playing a disproportionate role in responding to the pandemic that is ravaging the World, including as frontline healthcare workers and carers at home. Women’s unpaid care work has increased significantly as a result of school closures and the increased needs of older people.
Women are also harder hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19, as they disproportionately work in insecure labour markets. Nearly 60% of women work in the informal economy, which puts them at greater risk of falling into poverty.
Details of the Gender Equality Bill in Nigeria
- The proposed package was rejected after some lawmakers in the upper chamber, mostly northern Muslims, cited social, cultural and religious concerns.
- The proposed gender equality bill focused on making discrimination on the basis of gender or marital status a crime. Another aim of the bill was to reinforce existing laws against gender-based violence.
Many of the Nigerian senators who opposed the legislation during a plenary session said their resistance was strictly on religious issue. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and is deeply divided along religious and ethnic lines. Currently, only 7% of the Nigerian senators are women.
While women have made important inroads into political office across the world, their representation in national parliaments at 23.7% is still far from parity. In 46 countries globally, women now hold more than 30% of seats in national parliament in at least one chamber.
The OMICRON and COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a steep increase in violence against women and girls globally. With lockdown measures in place, many women are trapped at home with their abusers, struggling to access services that are suffering from cuts and restrictions.
According to an emerging data from the United Nations Organization shows that, since the outbreak of the pandemic, violence against women and girls – and particularly domestic violence – has intensified.
UN Women has developed a rapid and targeted response to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on women and girls and to ensure that the long-term recovery benefits them by focusing on 5 priorities:
- Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, is mitigated and reduced
- Social protection and economic stimulus packages serve women and girls
- People support and practise equal sharing of care work
- Women and girls lead and participate in COVID-19 response planning and decision-making
- Data and coordination mechanisms include gender perspectives
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for radical, positive action to redress long-standing inequalities in multiple areas of women’s lives, and build a more just and resilient world.
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