The bill on gender equality in marriage – designed to grant women the same marital rights as their husbands – has been rejected by the Nigerian Senate at the plenary on Tuesday, March 15.

Speaking on the bill proposed by Senator Biodun Olujimi, representing Ekiti south senatorial district, titled: ‘Gender Parity and Prohibition of Violence against Women’, Senate leader, Ali Ndume urged Nigerians to stick with the norms of either religious or traditional marriage.

Senate rejects bill on gender equality in marriage
Senate rejects bill on gender equality in marriage

The Senate Leader said that crisis usually occurs when couples who had performed both traditional and religious marriage rites find themselves in the middle of a divorce saga.

He said: “This law that is being amended is very important especially when there is a clear conflict when it comes to dealing with widows, inheritance, divorce, even marriage itself in our society.”

“There are various traditions. The problem we have is the combination of our traditions and new religious beliefs. You will find an Igbo man who cannot speak Igbo language because he studied abroad. He will do traditional marriage then go to church again to get married in the church.

“The church wedding says if you marry, the couple become one while the Igbo tradition says when you marry a wife, she becomes your property. So when issues come up after the marriage, you now wonder which one to take.

“As for inheritance and divorce, in Islam, it is very clear how it is being done, but if you combine that with your tradition, you find out that women are being discriminated in a disadvantageous manner. There is a need for women who are involved in this advocacy to also engage in enlightenment.

“If you will marry, you will marry; either Christian or Muslim. I think this bill is timely and important and at the public hearing stage, we will look at this bill very well.”

However, while clarifying the content of her bill, Senator Olujimi, who is the deputy minority whip of the senate, said that it seeks equal rights for women in marriage, education and job.

The sponsor of the bill stated that according to the content of the bill, a widow would automatically become the custodian of children in the event of the death of her husband, and would also inherit his property.

The likes of Ike Ekweremadu, the deputy senate president, Senator Ibn Na’allah representing Kebbi south senatorial district, Ibrahim Gobir representing Sokoto east senatorial district pledged their support for the passage of the bill.

However, when the Senate President Bukola Saraki put the bill to a vote, the opposing senators shouted a thunderous “nay”, and subsequently had their way.

The bill, which was first read on October 20, 2015, seeks to reduce all forms of violence against women including sexual abuse and discrimination.
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