Chuks Okocha and Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate has commenced moves to put an end to discrimination against women in the Nigeria Police Force with Thursday’s consideration of the Police Act Amendment Bill, 2019.
The piece of legislation before the National Assembly essentially seeks to expunge the provisions of Regulations 122, 123, 124 and 127 from the principal Act.
Sponsor of the bill, Senator Ezenwa Onyewuchi (PDP, Imo East) said the Act under amendment restricts female police officers assigned to general duties in the Police Force to telephone, clerical and office orderly duties.
According to the lawmaker, the Act also prohibits women police from drilling under arms; mandates female police officers to apply for permission to marry, while the intending fiancé is investigated for criminal records.
While prescribing discriminatory treatment – dismissal from service – for an unmarried police officer who becomes pregnant, the Act also stipulates that a police woman who is single at the time of enlistment must spend three years in service before applying for permission to marry.
“An analysis of the Police Act and other regulatory/policy documents governing the internal and external workings of the Nigeria Police Force reveals a preponderance of discriminatory regulations and workplace practices that reinforce gender discrimination.
“The examination of gender issues covers various spheres of policy and practice ranging from language, recruitment, training and posting; to marriage, pregnancy and child bearing.
“Many of the police regulations particularly Regulations 122, 123, 124 and 127 are overtly discriminatory to female officers,” Onyewuchi said.
For instance, Regulation 127 in the Police Act states that “an unmarried woman police officer who becomes pregnant shall be discharged from the Force, and shall not be re-enlisted except with the approval of the Inspector-General.”
According to him, such regulations of the Police Act were enacted in 1968, “at a time when the societal attitude to women in the workplace was very different from what it is today.”
He added: “There is no rational justification for the imposition of these discriminatory provisions, since they do not in any manner promote the efficiency or discipline of the female police officer. “Women occupy very senior roles in the police and have shown themselves to be just as competent and disciplined as their male counterparts.
“Since a male police officer is not subjected to the same inhibitions, the current regulations are inconsistent with section 42 of the Constitution and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex,” the lawmaker said.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South), in his contribution to the debate, lamented the level of discrimination against women in the Police Force.
He, therefore, called on his colleagues to support efforts by the upper chamber to amend the Act so as to give dignity to women police.
The bill, which scaled second reading on the floor, was referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Senate Committee on Police Affairs for further legislative work.