Sponsor, CSOs Seek Urgent Passage of Modified Gender Equality Bill

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Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

The sponsor of the Gender Equality and Opportunities Bill, Senator Biodun Olujimi, Affirmative Action Coalition for Women, and Voices for Change (V4C), have called on the National Assembly to expedite passage of the modified version of the bill seeking an end to all forms of discrimination against women.

Olujimi, briefing newsmen in Abuja, also cleared some misconceptions about the bill, which was reintroduced to the Senate in September 2016, with modifications from the initial version, which suffered defeat in March 2016.

She noted that the bill seeks to achieve equal opportunities to all citizens in all spheres of life, specifically in the fields of health, education, governance, employment, as well as social and economic fields.

“The GEO bill takes into cognizance the existing provisions of religious books on inheritance as well as the discriminatory customary law position on the subject matter. It does not call for equality in inheritance rather it provides in one of its sections for equitable share (and not equal share) in inheritance between sons and daughters.

“The use of the word equitable is in recognition of the fixed inheritance shares in the Qur’an which are based on the different needs, roles, responsibilities and interests of males and females. Equitable share does not mean equal share but that which is fair and just, which is what the Qu’ran and the Bible preach. The section does not dictate what is to be shared but envisages that the share must be fair for men and women. This also takes care of areas in Nigeria where customary law excludes women completely from inheritance,” Olujimi said.

She added that the bill also guarantees equal rights of women to conclude contracts and administer property and equal treatment of women in all stages of proceedings in courts and tribunals.

It also guarantees that nothing restricts, limits or discriminates against any person in terms of the legal capacity of women to undertake surety on behalf of any person, or prevents or deny any advantage or benefit due to any woman only on the basis that she is a woman.

The Co-founder of African Women Development Fund, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi said Nigeria can only advance if it provides equal economic opportunities for women, adding that the country would not achieve any of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) without empowering women.

She described as mischievous, conceptions that the bill would encourage abortion, homosexuality, and immorality among women.