Sunday, March 20, 2016

The misogynists in the Nigerian Senate By Reuben Abati

What Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti South) did with her presentation of a bill on gender and equal opportunities on March 15, is the equivalent of trying one’s luck. But she deserves praise for her courage and progressive views, and for forcing the issue so well.
The subject has generated useful debate and the Senate President has been forced to reassure the public that the bill will be re-presented, after it has been re-drafted “to address some of the reservations that were expressed on the floor of the Senate.”
This is the third time that the Senate will throw out this same bill.  Senate President Bukola Saraki knows too well that to address the expressed reservations is to kill the bill completely. There may be no hope of a misogynistic Senate passing a Bill that seeks to empower women and the girl-child, protect them from discrimination and violence, rescue them from being treated like chattel, and ensure that women play more prominent roles in public and private decision-making processes.  The Bill further seeks to protect the rights of women in marriages.
It should not be surprising that the male-dominated Senate (102 men to 7 women) rose against the Bill. A few male voices supported Senator Olujimi, but those against the Bill were determined. They quoted the Bible. They cited the Quoran. They dismissed any thought of women having more powers or voice or being treated like equals to men. They even cited culture and tradition. One newspaper stated matter of factly, that Senator Olujimi “incurred the wrath of Northern Senators”. 
When the matter was put to a vote, the naysayers of course won. So, given the gender imbalance in the Senate and the shortage of enlightened men on the floor, if that Bill is presented a thousand times, the outcome is predictable. It is perhaps for this reason that a different kind of strategy will be required to make any progress in the important fight for the treatment of women’s rights as human rights.
Nigeria is signatory to different international conventions on the elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against women. The Constitution also forbids discrimination against any person on the grounds of gender and circumstances of birth. Long before the internationalization of the struggle for women’s rights and its NGO-nization, there have been records of valiant Nigerian women pushing the envelope and demonstrating through advocacy and individual accomplishments that women are capable partners in society’s development, and that they deserve full citizenship rights.   
But just as was demonstrated again on the floor of the Senate, religion, culture and male chauvinism are major stumbling blocks. Even some of the most educated men around cannot stand the idea of women being given more opportunities. Those male Senators who shot down the Olujimi Bill must have been wondering what gave her the effrontery to suggest that men and women should begin to share power and opportunities as equals.
 The man who led the assault against the bill and who reportedly later celebrated the victory is actually the same man who was once publicly upbraided for marrying a 13-year old girl, a girl about the age of his granddaughter! In that same Senate, one of the members while declaring his assets sometimes last year, listed his two wives as part of his assets! 
A gender and equal opportunities Bill should help provide stronger legislative framework for protecting women from all forms of discrimination, but legislative intervention may well not be enough. The real battle-field is in the identified areas of religion, culture and tradition, and the absence of political will to enforce relevant laws that promote social justice. Societies don’t just move from one level of enlightenment to the other: leadership is required. But as it is, Nigeria has leaders who are male chauvinists, whose attachment to culture and religion prevents them from understanding the true meaning of human rights.  This is why it seems so difficult to convince Nigerian patriarchs that certain religious and cultural practices simply do not make sense.  
What kind of culture or tradition allows a man to marry a child, for example?  What kind of tradition recommends that a widow should be humiliated and subjected to inhuman practices in 2016?  In some communities in the East, a woman cannot taste the new yam of the season as they call it.  Men must taste it first. Among Igbos, even the most enlightened man will not allow a woman break kolanut in a gathering of men. Leviration is still practised in some Nigerian communities.  One year after the millennial deadline on gender equality, there are still families in Nigeria where the girl-child is considered fit only for marriage, and so when male children are sent to school, the girls are asked to hawk wares, until they are ripe enough to be married off.  
In other places, wives cannot inherit their husbands’ estates, and daughters are disinherited on the basis of gender. Patterns of this discrimination against the female gender exist even in workplaces today, and significantly in politics. I recall the case of one of these banks, which once instructed female employees not to get pregnant, within the first year of employment! And in politics, women are organized as separate groups with someone called Woman Leader, whereas there is no such equivalent for men.
The manifold existence of constructive gender discrimination explains the speed and alacrity with which the gender and equal opportunity bill is always dismissed whenever it is brought up in the National Assembly. The advocacy for women empowerment and an end to gender discrimination is also severely limited. It is restricted to non-governmental organizations, and a few influential voices in society who understand the issues, attend international conferences and who over the years have been organizing workshops and rallies to conscientize political, religious and traditional leaders.  But this has not quite helped, and this may well be because the majority of the core affected women are excluded from the campaign. 
The Biodun Olujimis of Nigeria are not necessarily the ones seeking freedom from discrimination.  They can hold their own, they can negotiate power at many levels; the ones in need of help are the poor women and girl-children who are trapped under male domination, poor, disempowered, voiceless, and incapable of realizing their potentials to the fullest.  The ones in need of help are those poor widows who are humiliated by in-laws, the millions of girls who are out of school just because they are female, the under-aged girls who are married off to old men, against their wish, and the army of dispossessed women whose lives have been condemned to a routine of raising children, fetching water and working on the farm.
These victims themselves need to be mobilized into the struggle for the full recognition of the human rights of women.  They need to be given a voice.  It is not a task for NGOs alone. The struggle must become more inclusive. We have Ministers and Commissioners in charge of women affairs and social development.  They are busy travelling from one international workshop to the other. Such a department of government can do a lot more. To get Nigerian men to respect the human rights of women, the womenfolk must work together and support each other, and develop the kind of advocacy that was defeated last Tuesday into a sustainable, organized movement.  
The tone of the advocacy should also change: too often, gender and equal opportunity issues are presented as pleas, as if women are seeking favour and understanding from the men: please-give-us-more-powers, allow-us-to-also-exercise-authority; we-want-more-women-in-government. For as long as the language of negotiation sounds that beggarly, not much progress can be made.  Nothing short of an organized women’s movement around the core issues is what is required.
In the long run, education is probably the best policy option. Every child must go to school and no child should be allowed to be an artisan until after secondary school education.  Once upon a time in this country, the social welfare department used to arrest any child found on the streets during school hours. The disparity in the education of men and women in Nigeria is alarming, given the fact that women constitute about 50% of the national population. The school drop-out rate for the girl-child is as high as 44%! There are extant laws, which prescribe punishment for parents who keep their children out of school; such laws must be enforced. State governments should vigorously promote education at all levels. 
Education is the strongest weapon for liberating people from the clutches of harmful religious and traditional practices. Education in this regard means being enlightened enough to know what parts of religion and tradition are humane and progressive. Even where these prove resilient on the basis of social legitimacy, the truth is that it will be difficult to maltreat a woman who is fully aware of her rights. The Senators opposing gender equality and rights would never allow their own daughters to be exposed to any form of indignity. They quote culture and religion out of sheer hypocrisy. Their reliance on the Holy Books to justify the inferiorization of women as the weaker sex is dubious.
Successful women should be prepared to support other women. More women should take interest in politics, and seek political power at all levels. Nigerian women must get into the arena and seek decision-making positions, to enable them influence and implement policies.  Let Nigerian women form their own political parties and contest the public space with the misogynists. The women’s movement in Nigeria has lost its steam. Some Nigerian women are involved in partisan politics but they either end up behaving like the men, or they claim they are technocrats with no interest in feminist matters. 
They reinforce stereotypes and even work against the interest of other women seeking progress. Such women cannot lead the struggle; new recruits and role models are needed. To give meaning and bite to Senator Olujimi’s kind of intervention, progressive Nigerian women must unite and re-organize.

55 comments:

Bonita Bislam said...

More healthy seed to your testicles Abati.It seems your brain started functioning better in the post Gej era.Kudos!
Everything you said here is apt.People get it wrong when gender equality is mentioned. The men folks believe the women are advocating to be equal with men.They believe it goes against nature, God's wish ,culture & religion.But this is a fight against women being used as objects of poetry , about defending the rights of the widows, the girl child, the one woman culture has relegated to the kitchen, the women suffering from domestic violence, the women who cant sit with the elders coz they are women & generally everyone that has been a victim of male chauvinism.If religion frowns at women taking active roles in leadership for instance, we won't have the likes of Deborah in the bible.
The problem here isnt religion , its african's culture which demeans women.The very whitemen who brought religion to us celebrates women.Even Islam have prominent women in power like
prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto(served 1988-1990 and 1993-1996),Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri
(elected 2001), former Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller (served 1993-1995), former
Senegalese President Mame Madior Boye (elected 2001), Bangladeshi Prime Ministers Begum Khaleda Zia (served 1991-96 and 2001-06) and Sheikh Hasina Wajed (first
elected in 1996), former Iranian vice president Masoumeh Ebtekar (served from 199797 to 2005), Malian president Cissé Mariam
Kaïdama Sidibé (elected in 2011), current President of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga (elected in
2011), and current President of Mauritius Bibi Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim (elected in
2015).
So what's the big deal?

chioma jacinta said...

* it's well*

Anonymous said...

100million gbozaaaaaa for this brother. Sisters, una don hear now get up and act!!!

Prince Emmanuel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NaijaDeltaBabe said...

Another long sermon


...merited happiness

Victoria Oddiri said...

Reuben Abati English sha!!! Very polished.



#Somebody must to love me tonyt!!!

Prince Emmanuel said...

Well written,thought-provoking and straight to the point. Nice one, Oga Reuben Abati.

Pretty face said...

Well spoken

PrettyChi said...

Hmmmmm

Anonymous said...

Yeah right, Abati himself has 2 wives under his roof so is he equal to 1 woman or 2 women?
Keep deceiving yourself, playing games with only the ignoramus.

anita gold said...

I. Read not

anita gold said...

I. Read not

Anonymous said...

Oga Reuben, nwanyi iwa oji na oha bukwa aru!!!! They can do any other thing.

Barr. Joe said...

Very interesting and captivating as usual.

Jamila Shaibu said...

Hmmmmmmmmm

bhilysblog said...

Truth be told, we r gradually going western. Very soon, transgender, gay and lesbians would carry placard to protest right. What is this world turning into? Whatever bill that's being debated if it is against the Bible which is the constitution from God to man is non and void. The bill should be thoroughly screened of any part that won't glorify God.

chommy said...

Seen. Linda observe!

I.E said...

I love this write up! I know am not beneath any man. As a Christian, I understand roles as a wife but that doesn't make me in any way less inferior to any man.

Di Mateo Xavie said...

AbaTi's brain is now functioning WelLa....gueSs GEJ was his hinderance

Richard Afon Yinkå said...

Nice one




#reeshahr

Anonymous said...

When he was making Millions under GEJ he could write now he can write abi!

Juliet Iwuno said...

Hmmmmm! Linda take note!

Eric Nesty aka LIB'S FINEST said...

Okay...


#FINEST

Wizkid's Driver said...

Cool

Anonymous said...

The fact that the people of this country hide behind religion and culture concerning gender issues is deeply appalling.Thank you for taking about it, we don't do that nearly enough in this country

Anonymous said...

The fact that the people of this country hide behind religion and culture concerning gender issues is deeply appalling.Thank you for taking about it, we don't do that nearly enough in this country

uju okeke said...

Thought provoking, women must unite to make it work and the time is now.

uju okeke said...

.

uju okeke said...

Women for unite for this. The time is now.!

Anonymous said...

Reuben Abati has articulated this topic so well. I felt so ashamed as a Nigerian man living in America when I first read about this issue. My problem is why do we have to always learn from the west to have any progress in our Nigerian society. This bill is not rocket science. It should have passed .

Anonymous said...

Ok. This is actually a tough one because of the risk of being misunderstood. I got a copy of the Gender equality bill and this is my take. Firstly the bill addresses a lot of wonderful issues but also I feel the promoters got carried away and included things that could mean government regulating peoples’ personal lives or discriminating against the other gender.
Secondly certain issues being addressed have already being addressed in the Nigerian constitution especially sections relating to human freedom. If those things are not being enforced then what is required is not a second legislation. It is sensitization of victims on what their rights should be and empowering them accordingly.
References have been made about widows who are made to go through sh*t and employers telling females not to get pregnant. Sincerely every enlightened and willing Nigerian knows these are offences that can be addressed in Nigerian court of law. The main issue is empowerment, are the victims willing, empowered and do they have the resources to pursue that course. So how will creating another legislation based on freedom for women and children address that when the blanket legislation addressing freedom and fundamental human right has not addressed it.
There are countries where women can’t vote, women can’t drive cars, women get paid less than their male counterpart but great Nigeria isn’t that backward. I also saw sections requesting at least 35 percent reservation for women in employment and schools; I believe every opening should be filled in a competitive manner with everyone given a fair shot irrespective of gender.(Clauses like this will give the antagonists a good argument)
Regarding early marriage and education of the girl-child, I believe free basic education backed by a legislation that every child (girl or boy) below 16 must be in school and cannot be married off will address this. (At least the antagonists won’t term this a gender-equality bill). Regarding inheritance, people should be advised to have a will to ensure their loved ones do not suffer when they leave (At least the Nigerian court still respects the wishes of the dead).
Finally rather than seek legislation for what has already been somewhat legislated, we should seek to empower people so they can seek and obtain justice when rights are infringed

mr divine said...

I did not read this long story this nigga wrote. The only reason he has time to write is cus he dosnt have money to spend . the nigga broke. PDP and APC r the same

Anonymous said...

It us time for Nigerian women to unanimously give Senator Biodun Olujimi all the support she needs to achieve this goal

Anonymous said...

Oga Reuben work no dey for uooo. Any grammar u like write, wind don blow u & jona comot. Hahahaha

Anonymous said...

Oga Reuben no work for uoo. Any grammar u like write. U & Jona na bye byeoooo. Hahahaha yeyeman.

Anthony Dugbo said...

The Reuben I use to know as a Writer in The Nigerian Guardian. Lucid and not lacking in clarity.

Simeon Aligbe said...

Reuben Abati, writer per excellence. What an Apt piece (in CM's voice). Women....this is ur chance..

chyyy said...

Wow.... clapping.....
This is nice write up since this year

Anonymous said...

There are still women on this page calling the article a long thing. I pray you fools suffer discrimination the rest of your worthless lives.

Islam will be a problem to giving women rights. They will never agree to an of this. Why are we southerners forced to live with these animals?

Olabisi Ola-Soetan said...

I dont think most of the people praising Reuben Abati's post and supporting Senator Olujimi's submission read your response. Good grammar does not mean good sense. I believe in human right not woman right.

Olabisi Ola-Soetan said...

Women need to stop blackmailing men. Women should seek for human right and not a right for ourselves. No matter how nuch your husband loves you he can never be pregnant for you. We should be careful how we upturn nature cos there are consequences. Every where you turn you will see a matured single lady seeking for a man to marry. Why should a man marry you when all you want to be like is him. Pause and think.

i. c. Ukwuegbu said...

Reuben Abati has always been my fan when it comes to opinion writing. Even when he was in government, I follow his wife ups. On the issue of man woman equality, all that exist today are natural. Even women will not agree to some of the changes being advocate by Olujimi. She herself cannot agree with all she is advocating. She is only doing something she does not believe in just to justify her earning. Cultural and religious limitations are there. It is not only in Nigeria or Africa alone. What happens in Igboland in relation to kolanut is just to create orderliness. After all a female does not inherit the throne of England if there is a male.

Anonymous said...

Jealous friends Just Leaked Nude videos of Amber'z Mum,

Anonymous said...

Married. professor caught having sex with his student..

Ogechi Ikwunagu said...

I love this piece, well done Mr. Abati. I think we (well meaning Nigerian masses) should jointly support and speak up more on this matter of gender equality, so that it's not swept under the rug again. Women deserve to be treated with respect in every facet of life.

The Nigerian society oftentimes discriminate against women and the girl-child, that's why we need a thorough legislation on gender equality that would subsequently be properly enforced.

I believe in Nigeria

Anonymous said...

Misogyny goes hand in hand with racism, homophobia and any type of discrimination, intolerance and prejudice. If one is allowed thrive, it creates room for the others.

Vivian Reginalds said...

Akuko
-D great anonymous now as Vivian Reginalds

Anonymous said...

I can tell ur learned from ur write up... but u do realize that some of the issues raised in the bill refer mostly to private institutions within Nigeria. A very simple question my friend "can an order of mandamus lie against a private institution? These institutions e.g the banks that give women conditions like nt getting pregnant for 1 year have contracts in their favor, if women go on maternity leave, they would be fired... this bill I presume isn't just aimed @ the government structures but also protecting the right of women in the private sector and to have a more straight forward act which rightly deals with these issues without giving terms a second definition... my 2 cents. A-B

Anonymous said...

Its like my friend before, Reuben Abati is waking up after drinking to stupor from the GEJ regime. However, what are we even arguing about. If it is true that women outnumber men in Nigeria, why can't women refuse to vote for men during our elections. That way they can vote for their fellow women who would champion their affairs at the state and national assemblies. The point I am making is that women are the ones denying themselves equal rights with men. Otherwise, why was it that Sarah Jubril, a woman got only one vote during PDP convention in 2011 with all the women at that convention. Nobody gives anybody equal rights, you work and fight for it.

Anonymous said...

@ukwuegbu, they have changed that now, a female does now even if there's a younger brother. The only thing that's constant is change. I didn't know that a woman breaking kolanut causes disorderliness.And it is also a sin for a girl child to inherit her father. Wake up.

Ogbewe Godfrey said...

Noted.

Anonymous said...

Well said Mr Abati especially with current statistics of women in the country. It's a shame that women cant come together even for their common good. As long as they dont see they problem, they may never make any meaningful progress...

Anonymous said...

Senator OLujimi, I salute your courage. Don' t ever mind those bundle of hypocrites who claimed ''feminism'' is antiscriptural. That is the only part of the Scriptures that interest them for their personal goals.Why wouldn't they quote Malachi 3:8-10 that speaks about Non- Tithing as daylight robbery. This is because they robb God and robb the masses daily. Please, let us keep on serving and our nation faithfully; sooner or later "posterity will speak for whoever is doing the right thing. I believe that whoever pleases God, he will exalt and no "man"/men" either by majority vote or any other 'kangaroo' way of quoting Scriptures in support or against any motion, will be strong enough to query GOD.

Anonymous said...

@olabisi ola soetan... since when did calling for women's rights mean that women now want men to get pregnant for them. you definition of equality is twisted, it is twisted so much that we say one thing, you think it is another and then you use it to go against ideas on equality, when women seek equality they do not mean that they want to be the same as a man, they do not mean they now expect men to start giving birth, that is not the equality we speak of, in fact equality should not be a word used on the biological functions of a man and woman,we are not the same, we are clearly different. but please tell me what part of the female biology says that she can't go to school? that she can't be the CEO of a company, that she can't inherit land? that she should be married off at 13? equality of value is what we are speaking about, if men think that an activity is beneath them, then it must be beneath a woman too.

there are men who think doing the chores in the house is beneath them, but they will gladly let their women do it? this is an extremely trivial example but it highlights the inequality we speak about, if a woman is of equal value to you, the things that you feel are demeaning to you must be demeaning to her as well, if something is demeaning but it is okay if it is a woman, does that not mean she is beneath you?. there are men you can "discipline and correct" their woman by disgracing them in public, but when the disgrace is done to them that's when they speak up about it, but they they don't call it "dehumanising", they say emasculating... so that it can only be negative in reference to a man, but a normal occurrence for a woman. you say "Nature", but you have no idea what nature is, nature determined things like which gender can give birth, who has breasts etc, but did nature say that women could not dream big? be bigger things that wives or future wives (which is the only thing Nigerians seems to think a woman is), don't misunderstand this fight, it is not nature we are fighting against it is an unnatural oppression, under the guise of nature (as dictated by man)/culture/tradition.

i see people like you, we are arguing about the oppression of women and you're talking about women wanting men to be pregnant, please how is that the same thing, it's called deflecting the question/ raising a straw man argument/ bringing irrelevant issues into a debate to change the subject.

Anonymous said...

@olabisi ola soetan... since when did calling for women's rights mean that women now want men to get pregnant for them. you definition of equality is twisted, it is twisted so much that we say one thing, you think it is another and then you use it to go against ideas on equality, when women seek equality they do not mean that they want to be the same as a man, they do not mean they now expect men to start giving birth, that is not the equality we speak of, in fact equality should not be a word used on the biological functions of a man and woman,we are not the same, we are clearly different. but please tell me what part of the female biology says that she can't go to school? that she can't be the CEO of a company, that she can't inherit land? that she should be married off at 13? equality of value is what we are speaking about, if men think that an activity is beneath them, then it must be beneath a woman too.

there are men who think doing the chores in the house is beneath them, but they will gladly let their women do it? this is an extremely trivial example but it highlights the inequality we speak about, if a woman is of equal value to you, the things that you feel are demeaning to you must be demeaning to her as well, if something is demeaning but it is okay if it is a woman, does that not mean she is beneath you?. there are men you can "discipline and correct" their woman by disgracing them in public, but when the disgrace is done to them that's when they speak up about it, but they they don't call it "dehumanising", they say emasculating... so that it can only be negative in reference to a man, but a normal occurrence for a woman. you say "Nature", but you have no idea what nature is, nature determined things like which gender can give birth, who has breasts etc, but did nature say that women could not dream big? be bigger things that wives or future wives (which is the only thing Nigerians seems to think a woman is), don't misunderstand this fight, it is not nature we are fighting against it is an unnatural oppression, under the guise of nature (as dictated by man)/culture/tradition.

i see people like you, we are arguing about the oppression of women and you're talking about women wanting men to be pregnant, please how is that the same thing, it's called deflecting the question/ raising a straw man argument/ bringing irrelevant issues into a debate to change the subject.

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