Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

A women advocacy group, the Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF), has called for the immediate re-introduction of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill (GEOP) at  the National Assembly.

It also called on the lawmakers in both legislative chambers to pass the bill without delay.

NFF in a statement issued on Tursday and signed by Geraldyn Ezeakile said the rejection of the bill by the Senate was a clear indication that the present Senate was not in tune with the present realities facing Nigerian women, from increased insecurity to sexual assault, abduction and forced marriages.

“The passing of the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill would have indicated Nigeria was ready to empower women through gender equality and equal opportunities,” the group said.

NFF explained that men had nothing to fear from the passing of the Bill.

It said: “A close examination of the proposed GEOP bill shows that it seeks to guarantee the rights of women to access; equal opportunities in employment; equal rights to inheritance for both male and female children; equal rights for women in marriage and divorce, equal access to education, property/land ownership and inheritance; protects the rights of widows and guarantee appropriate measures against gender discrimination in political and public life and the prohibition of violence towards women.

 “Why the majority of the Nigerian senators voted against the bill is beyond the rational of our understanding.”

 NFF therefore called on  the leaders and members of Nigeria’s legislative houses to swiftly reintroduce the bill from the exclusive list for an informed debate on the floor of the chambers.

NFF also called on civil society organisations and members of the public to come out en-masse on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 by 10a.m. at the Lagos Television (LTV) compound, for a peaceful protest against the withdrawal of the GEOB.

It stated that the rejection of the Bill by members of Nigeria’s Senate on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, did not come as a surprise, given the consistent indications of trivialising gender related issues observed in the present political dispensation in Nigeria which it said  also has the lowest representation of women in key elective and appointive decision making positions since 2007.

It said: “The Nigerian parliament as presently constituted has roughly 4 per cent of female members of parliament. The overwhelming rejection of the bill by a male dominated legislature is a clear indication of why more women are needed in decision making positions in order to safeguard the erosion of their rights and welfare.

“We recall that in the just concluded 2015 general election in the country, Nigerian women voted overwhelming for change but are now faced with rights impediment by male politicians who clearly do not have any interest in promulgating laws aimed at protecting and safeguarding women’s rights as guaranteed in international instruments such as; The Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Women and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (The Protocol) ratified by the Nigerian government in 1985 and 2003 respectfully.

“The GEOP bill sponsored by Senator Biodun Christine Olujimi, if allowed to be passed into law would have provided the opportunity for the domestication of these instruments into Nigerian law.  We hereby unequivocally state that ‘This is not the change nigerian women want and voted for.’”
NFF condemned the ‘detrimental role’ played by the infamous Senator Sani Yerima in shutting down the bill.