• Monday, July 15, 2024
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Gender bill necessary to fill gap created by culture, tradition – Rights lawyer

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A human rights lawyer, Odion Odia, has said that passing the Gender Equality Bill, currently before the Senate, would help to fill gaps created by culture and tradition in the country regarding women’s rights.

Odia told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in an interview in Abuja that there ought to be a balance between human rights and tradition and culture.

He said while human rights were already embedded in the African culture and tradition to a large extent, some practices violated women’s rights.

According to him, until laws are made to fill such gaps, the violation of human rights, particularly women’s rights, will continue to affect the society negatively.

“Our traditions are based on our societal values and there are human rights inherent in our culture and tradition.

“However, passing the bill is necessary, especially when there is a lacuna, for instance there are many areas in the country today where women are entirely excluded from assets; such a bill can now fill in the lacuna.

“The society must strive to balance culture and human rights, particularly women’s rights; and that is why the law says that any custom that is against public policy should be set aside. For example the tradition of the Idoma people that says that a woman should be killed if her husband dies; the law says such a tradition violates human rights and should be set aside.

“My position is that any culture that does not have human rights in it should be set aside; there must be a societal balance between human rights and tradition or culture,” he said.

Similarly, a cleric, Rev. Fr. George Ehusani expressed support for the passage of the bill to protect the rights of women in society.

Ehusani, former Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, said while those opposed to passage of the bill were entitled to their opinions, those in support should mobilise for its passage and signing into law.

“For me, it is not an issue; I will support it in every way because for me the male child and the female child have equal rights.

“In terms of equality and inheriting property, the Supreme Court already ruled that it is against the law for anybody to deprive women of inheriting property of her father.”

Reacting to reports calling for rejection of the bill, Ehusani said Nigeria was a secular nation. He said religious leaders could only advocate for laws that were against their values not to be passed.

“At the national level, it is the government that makes laws; it is not religious leaders that make laws.

“However, religious leaders can use the values of their religion to advocate for a law or not to have a particular law.

“The Catholic Church for example advocates not having abortion legalised because it is against our religion; so we have a right also to campaign.

“We can work for what we want of our Constitution. What we want as basic minimum standards of human rights and of gender equality for our country.

“It is left for the rest of us who think that men and women should have equal rights to mobilise to see such a bill through. That wouldn’t stop other groups that have different opinions, it is a free world, it is a democracy,” Ehusani said.

The cleric said, while passage of the bill was necessary to put things in perspective, some cultures had no problem with women inheriting assets.