Senator Biodun Olujimi has called on lawmakers and all Nigerians to support the revised Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill to be passed into law.
Olujimi who spoke during a press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday said that Nigeria runs the risk of not attaining the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The briefing which was in collaboration the Affirmative Action Coalition for Women led by Mrs Bisi Fayemi sought to throw light on the content of the revised bill ahead of the public hearing.
Recall that upon first presentation, the bill was out rightly thrown out by federal lawmakers.
However a revised bill presented later was approved for first and second reading and now referred to the committee on Judiciary to conduct a public hearing and submit its report to the Senate for consideration and possible passage.
However, the committee is yet to schedule a date for the public hearing since the bill was referred to it in December 2016.
Speaking at the press briefing, Sen. Olujimi assured that the public hearing will be scheduled at the shortest possible time adding that men should support the bill for the sake of their daughters and their sisters.
She stressed that contrary to beliefs by many Nigerian men, the Bill did not seek to equate women with men but only accord them equal opportunities.
She added that part of the condition upon which Nigeria can attain the SDGs was to eliminate all forms of gender discrimination which the bill will help to ensure.
The Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015 by UN Member States aims at ending poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.
The SDGs build on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which was aimed at slashing poverty, hunger, disease, gender inequality, and access to water and sanitation.
Senator Olujimi who is a former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State and now Deputy Minority Whip in the Senate said that the gender Bill also targets equal opportunity for men and not an attempt reduce the powers of men in their family.
“As important as it is, without a legal framework to support gender equality, SDG 5 cannot be met.
“Contrary to the fears expressed by some citizens including legislators, the provisions of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill are not in conflict with Nigeria’s 1999 Constitutional provisions; rather they amplify the provisions of the Constitution, including section 42, which prohibits sex discrimination and section 21, which upholds the preservation of cultures that enhance human dignity and are consistent with Freedom, Equality and Justice.
“Accordingly, the Bill reinforces the complementary and not competitive relations between men and women to be achieved through equal opportunities, mutual respect and common benefits to both.
“The bill will not take away family headship from men. It enjoins shared roles and responsibilities for family life.
“Equality refers principally to equal opportunities to access, contribute and seek redress,” she said.
The senator further stressed that the content of the bill was in no way in conflict with any cultural or religious beliefs neither does it contravene the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
She added that the High Court laws and Customary Court Laws of many states of the Federation empower the courts to uphold only the cultures and customs that are not repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.
“The bill will bring about development and advancement of all persons, male and female in the country and will go a long way in eliminating cultural practices like early or forced marriages, female genital mutilation, and disinheritance which are inimical to women and girl child development.
“The Nigerian Government will, by the enactment of the GEO Bill, fulfil its international obligations undertaken through the ratifications of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, the African amongst others,” she said.
Part of what the bill hopes to achieve is to allow equal rights of women to conclude contracts and administer property.
It also provides for equal treatment of women in all stages of proceedings in courts and tribunals and removing discrimination against women’s capacity to stand surety.
Other highlights of the bill include: elimination of gender stereotyping, prejudices, customary and other practices.
According to the bill the family as a unit of society shall ensure that values, practices or other forms of upbringing of children, ward and young people, or other forms of socialisation, is not discriminatory.
It proposes that women, like men should have right to ‘equitable’ shares in their parents’ inheritance.
“It does not call for equality in inheritance rather it provides in one of its sections for equitable share (and not equal share) in inheritance between sons and daughters.
“Equitable share does not mean equal share but that which is fair and just, which is what the Qu’ran and the bible preach.
“By enacting this Bill into law the National Assembly will be giving tuii meaning or effect to s. 42 of the 1999 Constitution that prohibits discrimination on grounds of sex,” she said.
While throwing more light, Mrs Fayemi added that it was not just the SDGs 5 that would not be attained but the entire SDGs if Nigeria failed to elimibate discrimination against women by passing the GEO bill.