Every year, the month of March is set aside as Women’s history month, where the contributions, impact and issues facing women worldwide are highlighted and discussed with the hope of making the world safer and fairer for women in marginalised communities. In one of its usual and unsurprising forms, Nigeria has chosen to welcome us into this auspicious month with backwardness.
On the 1st of March 2022 and exactly a week to International Women’s Day, the National Assembly (NASS) rejected five (5) bills and amendments aiming to alleviate Nigerian women’s dignity, civic and political rights, and participation. These bills covered:
- Conferment of citizenship to a foreign-born husband of a Nigerian woman: while allowing Nigerian men’s foreign-born wives to be awarded automatic citizenship.
- Denial of Nigerian women indigeneity through marriage: married Nigerian women are not allowed to be indigenes of their spouse’s state. This means they cannot contest for elective positions or be recognised for anything through their spouse’s states.
- Denial of additional seats for women in the National Assembly. Nigeria has one of the lowest inclusive political participation in the world.
- Denial of 35% appointed positions for women and settling for just 20%.
- Denial of women affirmative action in party administration and leadership: This simply means there will be no favour for women in general, either in the political parties or leadership positions, despite the many stumbling blocks rejecting bills such as this and our patriarchal society throws at women every day.
This rejection of all five (5) pro-equality bills by the 95% male-dominated institution have boldly declared that Nigerian women are irrelevant and reiterated socio-cultural biases and discrimination. This also affirms that women continue to face several obstacles to political life and that structural barriers through discriminatory laws and institutions still impede women’s participation in all spheres of life, especially the political space.
This year’s Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias. Now, campaigns have already begun in Nigeria as women from different groups have stood in protest to demand rescission of the constitutional amendments rejected by the Assembly. Individuals are also protesting on various social media platforms through the #EndGenderBias and #EndPoliticalBias hashtags. This campaign might be the turning point to call for a Nigeria free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination where women can move ahead and have a more diverse and inclusive future for Nigerian women and young girls.
STER calls on the National Assembly (NASS) and all law-making authorities to have another reading of these bills and rethink the future they envision for Nigerian women and girls.
We also encourage every Nigerian to collectively lend their voice in demanding a Nigeria where all forms of gender bias are completely eradicated. We have a voice, and it must be heard.