Chris Steven, Abuja
The National Coalition for Affirmative Action (NCAA), Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) and OXFAM Nigeria have called for the immediate passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunity bill by the Senate.
The Senate had on March 15, 2016, slated the Bill for second reading but was rejected based on cultural and religious reasons.
The three bodies in a joint press statement titled”urgent call for the passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill” lamented that the non-passage of the bill was its third time that the Senate would throw it out.
While explaining that the Bill seeks to empower women and the girl child from discrimination and violence, rescue them from being treated as chattels and ensure that women play a role in public and private decision making process, the statement which was signed by Oby Nwankwo of NCAA, Hajia Saudatu Madhi of WRAPA and Constant Tchona of Oxfam Nigeria said Failure to pass the Bill, would deny women and girls the power they require to live their lives free from poverty and their ability to work with men to challenge inequalities and social norms that are retrogressive.
They highlighted the benefit of passing the Bill into law to include, development and advancement of all persons, male and female in the country, which they argued 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 the girl child development.
“A careful look at research data from different development reports, including World bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), reveals that increasing social and economic opportunities and political representation for women has ripple effects on health, education, and socio-economic outcomes throughout society and for the next generation.
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 Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child amongst others.
The Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR at the United Nations General Assembly, New York, in September, 2015 which came into force January 1, 2016 envisaged a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination.
A world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed.
By enacting this Bill into law the National Assembly will be giving full meaning or effect to Section. 42 of the 1999 Constitution that prohibits discrimination on grounds of sex amongst others; but fell short of enacting in clear terms the principle of equality and non- discrimination that has become part of customary international law, for which no derogation is permitted.
We, Oxfam Nigeria, National Coalition for Affirmative Action (NCAA) and Women’s Rights Advancement & Protection Alternative (WRAPA) , therefore join forces with the rest of the world in calling for the immediate passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, by the National Assembly,” they said
It would be recalled that the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki had reassured the public that the Bill will be re-presented after it has been drafted to address some of the reservations that were expressed on the floor of the Senate.