Nigerian lawmakers rejected the gender equality bill for the third time in five years. The lawmakers cited “socio-cultural and Islamic concerns” as reasons to reject the bill. The bill was focused on eliminating discrimination on the basis of gender or marital status. The bill also focused on reinforcing existing laws against gender-based violence.
Senators in Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber, mostly northern Muslims, argued that the bill went against their religion’s practices and principles. Many of the senators who opposed the legislation during the session on Wednesday said that they are reluctant to pass the bill because of the religious issue.
Senator Biodun Olujimi on gender equality bill
The bill was proposed by Senator Biodun Olujimi. The Senator said the proposed law would eliminate gender-based violence against women in Nigeria. Olujimi said it is important to enact the law in the country because it will eradicate all forms of discrimination against women and persons living with disabilities in Nigeria.
However, she was forced to withdraw the proposal when the debate got heated during the session. Yusuf, from northern Nigeria, said, “If we have it as a Gender Opportunities Bill then it’s fine. However, when you bring equality into it, it violates the practice of the Islamic religion.”
Cynthia Mbamalu, program manager at YIAGA Africa, said that the reason senators gave for rejecting the bill was not worth it. Mbamalu further said that they should appreciate the importance of advancing equality for all citizens.
Gender discrimination in Nigeria
In Nigeria, women rarely make it to top positions of power. Reportedly, only 7% of the nation’s senators are women. In 2018, 13.2% of women aged 15-49 years reported that they had been subject to sexual violence by a current or former intimate partner. Nigeria is also deeply divided along religious and ethnic lines.