Senate President, Bukola Saraki
  •  Saraki: Bill should be reintroduced

The Senate has been condemned for rejecting a proposed bill aimed at eliminating “all forms of discrimination” against women.

The Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill was thrown out on Tuesday after some lawmakers voiced their opposition purely for arcane religious reasons.

Rights activists say the bill would promote women’s equality in marriage, inheritance and education.
Senators who opposed the Equality Bill said it was not compatible with Nigerian culture and religious beliefs.
Some senators also argued that the constitution already recognises the rights of everyone.

In Islam, women get half of men’s share in inheritance and it is unacceptable for anyone to change that, a Muslim senator told the BBC.

One Christian lawmaker also quoted some sections of the Bible to condemn the bill.
But the decision has been widely condemned.

Human rights activist Bukky Shonibare said it was a sad day for Nigerian women.
“It shows how backward we are and how much we want to hold on to our lopsided religious and cultural beliefs,” she told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.

It is unfortunate that some men who see the emancipation of women as a threat, are the ones being trusted with making laws and order, she added.

“Every senator that voted against the bill should hide their face in shame,” said prominent actress Uche Jombo.
Some activists have started circulating a petition urging the Senators to reconsider their stand against the bill.
Worried about the backlash over the rejection of the bill, Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday advised Nigerian women to reintroduce the Gender Equality Bill.

This was contained in a statement signed by Fatima Kakuri, Special Assistant on Gender and Equality to the President of the Senate, reported the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

The bill was sponsored by the Deputy Minority Whip of the Senate, Biodun Olujimi, but was rejected by the Senate over alleged constitutional violations.

Saraki said although the bill had suffered a setback, it could still be amended and reintroduced.
“Unfortunately, the bill suffered a slight setback because there were some parts of the bill that some senators disagreed with along the lines of religion and tradition.

“The beauty of democracy is that it gives us the opportunity to consider different opinions and this bill can still be re-presented and reconsidered on the floor of the Senate.

“I have it on good authority that Senator Biodun Olujimi, who introduced this bill, will reintroduce it after re-drafting it to address some of the reservations that were expressed on the floor of the Senate.
“As I said during the International Women’s Day last week, I am of the opinion that there are substantial parts of the bill that are crucial to the development of our nation.

“Such bills like the Equal Access to Education, strengthening of the laws on Violence against Women, Ending Abduction of Girls, Sustenance and Promotion of Entrepreneurship Opportunities, Gender Mainstreaming and Gender Equality are equally important,” he said.
Tuesday was the third time the Gender Equality Bill was rejected by the National Assembly.