• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Rejection of gender equality bill sad implication for Nigeria

Gender equity is not zero sum

Gender equality and inclusion are familiar concepts for development and gender experts. They are terms used to give greater involvement and attention to the challenges women face globally.

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 was meant to address these concerns – gender equality. Abiodun Olujimi, an influential female senator from Ekiti state, proposed a gender equality bill since 2015, to address the numerous discriminatory challenges faced by women in Nigeria, in line with the SDG 5, but it was faced with heavy criticism from senators, mostly from northern Nigeria, saying that the rejection was based on the contradiction of the bill with Islam and the use of the word “equality” rather than use “equity”. This has attracted several reactions and criticism from civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations for the refusal of the naïve, irrational, and insensitive 9th assembly towards the plight of women on religious grounds. Analysts have begun to look at the implication of this rejection by the National Assembly on Nigeria’s international image and drive to sustainable development.

Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize winner of economic science in 1998, argued that for a society to attain a status of development, it must have less poverty, unemployment, and inequality. He said for inequality, there must be the absence of income inequality and gender inequality. A common development indicator for all advanced economies is the recognition, protection, and defence of the rights of women in all facets of life. Women form a core component of their development, plans, policies, and process. Women are accorded equal status in leadership, opportunities, career, families, society, and almost everywhere. They are gender-sensitive in selection, employment, appointment to ensure greater inclusion for girls and women. The role of women in development and nation-building cannot be over-emphasized. A development plan devoid of women and greater opportunities that accord women a special status will fail. The higher the level of education of a woman, the healthier the family and the society. Women spend greater family time with children than men, which implies that for most children, the future is a product and attitudinal composition of their mothers more than their fathers. This will imply that the future of every nation is strongly related by the quality of women that society produces over time.

Read also: Dreams in support of the gender and equal opportunities bill

Nigeria, a developing society, has a very poor rating for protection and recognition of girl child rights and women. Women are at the receiving end of numerous ills in the Nigerian social space. Women lack powers, rights, and opportunities in most cultures in Nigeria. Women are considered a second fiddle to their male counterparts, with fewer opportunities in education, families, careers, employment, leadership, politics, and other vital areas in society relative to men. Women are victims of domestic violence, rape, early and forced marriage, female infanticide, human trafficking for prostitution, child abuse, domestic torture, modern slavery, female genital mutilation, sexism, discrimination in certain sectors in breaking the glass ceiling, and other vices. All these and many more were supposed to be addressed in the proposed gender equality bill, but it has been rejected to start all over again. There are certain implications that this will produce.

This is a clear indication of a lack of readiness and seriousness from the leadership of Africa’s most populous nation that Nigeria is far and miles away from development. The SDG 5 will never see its realization in Nigeria. Women will continue to suffer from neglect and lack of protection from the government. Women and girls will remain an endangered species with no law to support them. There will be greater human rights violation against women as the core goal of feminism will remain an illusion for the foreseeable future. 35 percent affirmative action by women to ensure greater participation of women will never become a possibility, let alone equal opportunity. The rights and protection of women cannot be guaranteed. Nigeria may never benefit from grants and aid for governments with gender and women-friendly policies. Nigeria’s global indicators for development will worsen. The international community will receive Nigeria’s wrong gender policy signal with surprise and disdain. This conforms to President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech in October 2016, that his wife belongs to his kitchen and the ‘other room’. A controversial statement that drew much criticism and backlash from social commentators all over the world. This rejection of the gender equality bill must be challenged by all well-meaning Nigerians. The rights of women in Nigeria must remain a priority and supported by the government. Women must be given the rightful place in Nigeria’s development process while ensuring all hands are together in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 by 2030 so that Nigeria is not left behind.

Alikor Victor is a development & health economist