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Again, bill on women empowerment, gender equality suffers setback

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Again, bill on women empowerment, gender equality suffers setback

For the third time, a bill seeking to promote women empowerment and gender equality, on Wednesday suffered  setback in the Senate.
The bill, which was first brought during the 7th Assembly, was killed both in the 7th and 8th Senate and likely to suffer the same fate again in the present 9th Senate.
Sponsored of the bill, Senator Biodun Olujimi (APC Ekiti South) was forced to stand it down after some senators, who kicked against the proposed legislation cited “socio-cultural and Islamic concerns.”
While leading debate on the bill, Senator Olujimi, said the legislation will help eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.
She said: “This bill seeks to further strengthen section 42 of the constitution. It seeks to eliminate gender-based violence. This bill was read for the first time in 2019.
“It will allow the for the domestication of all forms of discrimination against women. It will provide for the equality of all persons. If enacted, it will prohibit all forms of discrimination against women and persons living with disabilities.
“This bill will provide a legal basis and foundation upon which there will be formal, structured and institutional responses to prevent discrimination and provide for the rights of men and women, the equality of all persons and opportunities availed to all citizens- including people living with disability in Nigeria.
“The bill when enacted will provide for the prohibition of discrimination against both women and people living with disability, while also ensuring the equality of opportunities for every person.
“The bill will support agencies and stakeholders to recognise and respond to modificatio of socio-cultural practice ensuring the rights of widows, widowers, are recognized an protected while also providing guidance towards eliminating gender stereotype prejudices and emphasising the promotion of equality of all Nigerians to acce opportunities that enhance their dignity and well-being.
“The bill when enacted will encourage women to aspire and attain their full potentials considering the fact that there are real and nuanced forms of discrimination against women limiting their entry and growth in most formal spheres of works.
“The bill therefore seeks to avail equal opportunities of career choices, growth and promotion, job security, as well as equal treatment in work value, especially as relates to women’s rights to paid maternity leave.
“This bill when enacted will assist in dislodging some of the barriers to women’s equal access to all forms of financial credit, technical assistance, family benefits and other aspects of cultural life.
“This bill will also consolidate government and community protection and zero tolerance for violence in any circumstance, while promoting peace and harmony in homes where all its members are guaranteed equal access and treatment against discrimination particularly for the girl-child accessing education, women participating and contributing to governance and public life un-inhibited by customary laws, all forms of sexual and gender-based violations as they seek to access education and decent life conditions.”
Kicking against the bill, Senator Yusuf Yusuf (APC Taraba Central), said the equality of the male and female gender “infringes on the Qur’an.”
“This equality infringes on the Qur’an. I will not support the passage of the bill until the word equal is removed. When you bring equality into it, it infringes on the Qur’an.”
Also kicking against the bill, Senator Aliyu Wamakko (APC Sokoto North), said equality is wrong when it comes to Islamic and socio-cultural practices.
He said: “When it comes to socio-cultural practices, it is wrong. When you talk of equity it is okay. When you talk of equality it is no. I will not support it.”
Supporting the bill, Senator Istifanus Gyang (PDP Plateau North), said women are entitled to equal opportunities, adding, “I support the passage of this bill.
“Women have been at the receiving end of being excluded. Women are entitled to equal opportunities. Being a woman is not being less human.”
Also speaking, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege said the bill should be allowed to go for second reading.
He pointed out that the concerns raised by Senators Yusuf and Wamakko will be addressed at the public hearing.
Omo-Agege said: “The feelers I’m getting from the chambers, it appears the consultation has not gone far enough.
“I want to  plead that this Bill should not be killed here but should be allowed to go for public hearing so if there is anything that Senator Olujimi missed, it will be addressed.”
In his remarks, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan said the concerns of the senators speaking against the bill must be addressed if the proposed legislation must pass.
“Let us address the concerns of some of our colleagues here. The clean bill of health that someone gives does not make it healthy enough.”
At the end, the bill was stood down to enable the sponsor and supporters consult widely with other lawmakers.
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