Nigerian Women Fight for Gender Equality Gathers Momentum

Cape Town — Women rights groups across the country are protesting for a reconsideration of the gender bills rejected by lawmakers.

Five constitutional amendments were rejected by both chambers of Nigeria’s national assembly, while voting on the constitution amendment bills on March 1, 2022.

The lawmakers voted against the bill to provide special seats for women in the national and state houses of assembly; to provide reserve quota for women on appointments; expand the scope of citizenship by registration; provide for affirmative action for women in political party administration, and provide criteria for qualification to become an indigene of a state in Nigeria.

The decision of the National Assembly to reject the gender equality bills led to severe criticism, backlash, and even protest from concerned members of society and civil society organizations.  Women have been protesting since March 2, 2022, against the rejection of several bills seeking gender equality in the country. They have been using the following hashtags: #NigerianWomenOccupyNASS#OccupyNASS, #BreakPoliticalBias; #BreaktheBias and #BreakConstitutionBias, to push the demands on social media.

Women rights groups as well as  civil society groups have said that the rejection was a setback for Nigeria’s democracy and an obstacle in addressing long-standing discrimination against women in Nigeria that was stunting growth.

The House of Representatives buckled under pressure from women across the country, rescinding its resolution on three gender bills it earlier threw out at a constitutional amendment session. The bills are, granting citizenship to a foreign-born husband of a Nigerian woman. (Nigerian constitution allows Nigerian men’s foreign-born wives to be granted citizenship), granting Nigerian women indigeneship of their husband’s state of origin after 5 years of marriage, and granting 35% affirmative action for women. Lawmakers are expected to take a look at them when they vote on the next set of bills.

According to Aljazeera, women and girls make up nearly half the entire country’s population in Nigeria but are grossly underrepresented in Nigeria’s political space. Only 19 of the 469 legislators currently serving in Nigeria’s bicameral legislature – a meagre 4% – are female.  One of the amendments, if passed, would have given provisions to assign 35% of legislative seats to women, as well as reserving 35% of the political party leadership for women.

In December 2021, the bill seeking gender equality was rejected after some lawmakers cited social, cultural, and religious concerns.

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