NUMEROUS male senators opposed the passing of a new law in the National Assembly yesterday when a bill aimed at enshrining gender parity in the Nigerian constitution was debated on the floor of the house.
As part of the activities marking International Women’s Day (IWD), the bill was introduced in the senate where many male members were hostile to it but despite their opposition, the senate resolved to ensure that gender equality is a priority in the next constitutional amendment. During the debate, none of the male senators who voted against the bill spoke against it but when a voice vote was called, they were very vocal in opposing the bill.
Despite their opposition, however, the vote narrowly passed. Senate president, Senator Ahmad Lawan, ruled that the motion to including gender equality in the next constitutional amendment be adopted despite nays from many male senators when the prayer was put to vote.
According to eyewitness reports, the nays were louder and appeared to be in the majority, suggesting that the male-dominated senate rejected the gender equality proposal. Less than 10% of the 109-member senate are women, so getting gender-friendly legislation has always been hard in the National Assembly.
In 2017, Nigeria’s eighth senate rejected an amendment to the constitution that sought 35% affirmative action for women as ministers. That senate also rejected a bill seeking gender equality and equal opportunities.
Yesterday, the lawmakers also urged all political parties to make it a policy to give women equal opportunities in all elective and appointive positions. They urged employers of labour to give women equal opportunities to allow them achieve their true potentials.
These resolutions were sequel to a point of order raised by the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women Affairs, Senator Betty Apiafi. She raised the motion as part of the celebration of IWD, an annual global event marked every March 8, which seeks to celebrate women around the world, promote gender quality as well as eliminate gender stereotypes.
Adamawa State’s Senator Aishatu Dahiru, urged the senate and the federal government to encourage the participation of women in all spheres. She also urged the male lawmakers to support gender parity during the constitutional amendment.
In the same vein, Senator Stella Oduah of Anambra State asked the government to put in place, laws that protect the woman and girl child and ensure women inclusion in all aspects. In his remarks, Senator Lawan said it is only fair that women get the fairest share of participation in governance with the kind of percentage of the population they occupy.
Senator Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State, added that women bear a huge part of poverty, ignorance and diseases ravaging the country today. He also proposed that in the Senate, two positions be reserved for women per geo-political zone and in the House of Representatives, two positions be reserved for women per state.