As the world mark another International Women’s Day, women in Nigeria are desperate for the needed changes that would put them on the same pedestal as the males. Though are several laws articulating the rights of women and other minorities, they are not worth the paper they are written on. This year’s theme, #PressForProgress, is apt, as there is a palpable tendency to treat issues affecting women without the required zeal.
The foremost condition of humanity is justice. All women need is a just society that would also benefit men too. It behooves the National Assembly and the Presidency to either make enabling laws to pursue a just cause or make sure the existing laws are enforced. Some of the laws already in place are simply there to hoodwink the naive into believing the country treats her women with the respect they deserve.
It shouldn’t be a problem for the National Assembly to come up with such laws. After all, they were elected to do just that. And they even have expensively paid aides to help them draft and fine-tune the necessary laws.
To show women and the world Nigeria is in step with the #PressForProgress theme, these are some of the issues the National Assembly must codify as a matter of urgency.
1. Income disparity
The issue of income disparity between men and women is global. Women took to the streets in several countries around the world to remind men the problem still exists.
What is needed is very clear: everybody should be given the same opportunity to earn as much as they can.
The problem is endemic in Nigeria. In many places of employment, women are forced to accept low-income jobs due to the a perception that men work harder and are unlikely to be distracted by issues such as taking care of family kids.
It is for these reasons women dominate in jobs with low pay.
The law should be clear about the penalty to be handed to erring employers. And there must be a robust mechanism designed to protect anybody who decided to report employers who breach this law.
2. Inheritance law
This is one of the most abject cultural practices against women in Nigeria. In most cultures, women have no right to inherit property from a spouse or a parent.
In the case of a widow, her in-laws simply rush in to split the property amongst the family members. What the widow gets depends on how they feel about her. If they held grudges against her while the husband was alive, this is payback time for her. They make life as miserable as they possibly can without killing her.
Some women resort to hiding the dead husband’s property before the in-laws come calling.
We at Nigeria News don’t have to elaborate on the injustice of it all. Laws should be made to protect the rights of widows and make it a crime with stringent punishments so that greedy in-laws would pause before sending the hapless women into poverty.
3. Domestic abuse
Any sort of violence against anybody is a punishable crime. But for married women, a permissive culture makes it an open sesame of violence on women by husbands. The police and the courts treat cases like these with levity no matter how serious the level of violence. Many homicides have been committed due to unchecked domestic violence.
It is clear what the government needs to do. They must impress it on the security services to treat such cases as criminal in nature.
The government can go a step further by directing the Minister of Women Affairs to educate women about the options available to them in cases of domestic violence.
Halfway houses should be built for women who don’t have a place to find refuge to escape a violent spouse. Apart from being a place of rehabilitating these women, legal services must be made available to them.
The government can liaise with several NGOs to come up with the ways and means to go about it. Many of these NGOs have been doing the thankless job alone without the support of the government or security agencies. It is now time to see how they could be helped to protect the weaker members of the society.
4. Girl child rights
The women of today were once little girls. They are so vulnerable. So many crimes are committed against them daily that go unpunished. The odious practice of making them bride at a very early age is the common one.
Depriving them of them of adequate education is also common because many men believe it is a waste of resources educating them.
And the worst of the violations is the raping of minors by grown men.
Our little girls, the future mothers of the country, cannot be protected enough by the government and public. I am ashamed as a man to admit the country, largely controlled by men, has failed them.
5. Labor reforms
Many women have found out they are limited in how far they can advance in their careers. The clichéd glass ceiling is real for many women no matter their chosen career path.
In the public and private sector, women have had to resign because of the discrimination in promotion. In cases where they get to the top, people use derogatory terms like ‘bottom power‘ to rationalize their success.
This practice must stop immediately. Stringent labor laws for a more empathetic work place for women and strict enforcement of these laws would be a good starting point.
It should be made clear again that these laws are not ‘men vs. women’ thing; it is what justice is all about. If we accept all genders were created equal, then there should be no arguments about the need for such laws. As the rest of the world #PressForProgress, Nigeria must not be seen to be lagging.