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Ayisat Agbaje: Nigerian Laws Are Skewed Against Women! Together, We Must Fight For Equality

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It is legal to physically hit a woman for the purpose of correction, in Nigeria. No! I am not telling a lie…

This is in accordance to section 55(1)(d) of the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria which provides that an assault by a man on a woman is not an offense if they are married. Native law or custom recognizes such “correction” as lawful.

The bill was enacted in 2000 by 106 members of senate and 360 house of representative members. The bill states that “Nothing is an offence, which does not amount to the infliction of grievous harm upon any person and which is done by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife, such husband and wife being subject to any natural law or custom in which such correction is recognized as lawful” – Nothing encourages domestic violence more than this law.

Domestic violence and discrimination against women is a huge issue in Nigeria in which the federal government has made no effort to rectify. Maybe this is so because Nigeria has the lowest number of female parliamentarians in Sub-Saharan Africa and it is ranked 133rd in the world for female political representation.

Nigeria proposes that it has several laws that protect women such as the adoption of law protecting the rights of widows and ratification of the 1985 international treaty for Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. However, implementations for such laws have been extremely problematic. These laws are also hardly adhered to; their implementation has been nothing short of inadequate.

The Nigerian law also discriminates against women on the issue of punishment for assault. Grip your chains. Section 353 of the Criminal Code which provides that “Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults any male person is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years. The offender cannot be arrested without warrant.” On the other hand, Section 360 provides that “Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults a woman or girl is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years”. Why is the punishment less when the victim is a woman?

Further laws that have placed women in a really tight spot include Section 182 of the Penal Code which provides that there is no such a thing as marital rape. Basically a man cannot rape a woman in Nigeria. This means under the Nigerian criminal law, a man cannot rape his wife unlike many other countries in which a man may be guilty of raping his wife if she does not give consent, but in Nigeria there is nothing like consent.

Nigeria does not even have a comprehensive definition for rape. A lot of the provisions created, the language used in the constitutional laws can be very much viewed as gender neutral as it is written by men. Nigerian women make up 49 percent of the population and only 4 percent of law makers are female, which means a lot of these provisions are created by males. Also several lawmakers such as Dino Melaye have been accused of the domestic violence by their spouses. I guess the apple does not fall far from the tree after all.

Oh, and it gets worse

Section 221 of the Criminal Code provides that a person who rapes a girl above 13 years and under 16 years of age cannot be convicted of rape upon the uncorroborated evidence of one witness, In other words a person cannot be convicted of rape of a minor without the corroboration of evidence of the victim. The purpose for this is because sexual offences are never committed in public places, as a result the corroboration by at least one witness makes it impossible for girls and women to seek justice for sexual assault cases.

Huh?

Just FYI Nigeria has a conviction of less than 10 percent for rape prosecutions. Also no other institution in the world discriminates women more than the police force. Police women are required to place the alphabet W before their rank – I guess W means woman. Married women are disqualified from enlisting in the police force according to rule 122 and they must spend at least 2 years in the force before applying for permission to marry.

The discriminatory effect of certain provisions of the Criminal Code and Penal Code knows no limits. It is important we challenge the constitutionality of these provisions. Imagine bringing a female child into a world whereby a provision has been provided for your female child to be beaten to a stupor by a man she has chosen to build a marriage institution with.

Things must change. These provisions must be redrafted; our laws must be seen in content and intent to protect women from any sort of violence. Domestic violence is regularly encouraged by these laws. Nigeria must recognise the reality that when women are protected, you are invariably protecting the society.

Women are not the property of men.

Join a movement today, let’s eliminate such discrimination.

Organisations to follow:
• Women Empowerment and Legal Aid Initiative (WELA)
• Project Alert Nigeria @projectalertvawng
• Walk Against Rape @walkagainstrape
• WRAPA
• Mirabel Centre
Also I say a petition should be created. Send as many mails as possible.

Contact info:
President Muhammadu Buhari
Presidential Villa
State House, Aso Rock
Abuja
NIGERIA
Tel: +1 212 953 9130 (Mission to the UN in New York)
Fax: +1 212 697 1970 (Mission to the UN in New York)
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @NGRPresident

There is also a campaign by the Equality Now, you can sign up to send a direct mail to Aso Rock, just click the ACTION link at the bottom of the page

Photo Credit: © Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime.com

I am 24 years old and an MA degree holder in International Relations and Democratic Politics. I am an advocate for women's rights, human rights and civic participation. I believe in the importance of community development and politics within our societies, especially amongst young people. It is important that issues such as social integration, inequality and youth unemployment are addressed. I believe that young people are the leaders of the future and they hold great potentials and need to be given the opportunity to grow their skills and qualities in order to be successful and active citizens. I believe together we can find a long-term solution to address social inequalities and sustainability [email protected] on Instagram @glymspot on Twitter @yourchangeng on Instagram

6 Comments

  1. Aare farmland

    May 26, 2018 at 2:23 am

    It is appalling the sections present a case of males ratifying and enacting laws through their own lens. But I just don’t see much progress for fairness and equity in laws and in Nigeria without genuine women rights supporters joining a progressive movement, more female lawmakers will not solve the problems. Nigerian institutions including the judiciary and the police are functioning sub-optimally even the legislature. If you create more ‘women friendly’ laws from a weak legislature, with a sub-optimal police force and weak and over-burdened judiciary, those laws may become useless to victims when they want justice. If people want to help victims of abuse, put pressure on the police force, the state prosecutors and state governors . The genuine women activists need better organization to create a political force within the political process right from the grassroots. Too many of these real and pseudo ones, like their historical counterparts are elites who disdain the women from the grassroots while the women from the grassroots vote, many times along the lines of those who make the laws presented in the article. The women from the grassroots are intelligent and know the game, if the elites care about them they will support them, it has been done before with Franca Afegbua and through ‘illegal’ roles of maryam babangida.

  2. Queen Kate

    May 26, 2018 at 3:30 am

    This discussion came up weeks back while discussing feminism with a lawyer friend. Her thoughts were: feminism shouldn’t be about domestic chores, but about rectify laws that casts women as the 2nd best.

  3. Nitomeya

    May 26, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    These laws are appalling and need to be changed asap.

  4. Fleur

    May 26, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    My goodness. Nuf said. So we don’t have rights to effect control measures over a pit viper sitting in the home called husband when the need arises bUt they can “Correct” us via manhandling? when do we sue the authors of this legislation, aka the Nigerian govt in international court? All the women who’ve died while being corrected deserve compensation.

  5. B.S

    May 26, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    Am very disappointed in this our Nigeria govt both past and present once, even all their wives who have been married to them and knows this laws still exists. They all keep quiet and do nothing about it what a shame all they know is to encourage young women to get married and stay with their abusive and cheating husbands. The worst part of it is that it’s the same women that will move against the amendments of this laws to be changed. I dream of a better Nigeria were everyone has equal rights and freedom God help us all Amen…

  6. B.S

    May 26, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    Am very disappointed in this our Nigeria govt both past and present ones, even all their wives who have been married to them and knows this laws still exists. They all keep quiet and do nothing about it what a shame all they know is to encourage young women to get married and stay with their abusive and cheating husbands. The worst part of it is that it’s the same women that will move against the amendments of this laws to be changed. I dream of a better Nigeria were everyone has equal rights and freedom God help us all Amen…

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