The Nigerian senate has rejected a bill designed to grant women the same marital rights as their husbands.
Making his contribution to the debate on ‘A Bill Seeking Gender Parity and Prohibition of Violence against Women’ presented by Abiodun Olujimi, a senator from Ekiti state, Ali Ndume, senate leader, urged Nigerians to stick with either religious or traditional marriage.
He explained that crisis usually occurs when couples who had performed both traditional and religious marriage rites find themselves in the middle of a divorce.
“This law that is being amended is very important especially when there is a clear conflict when it comes to dealing with widows, inheritance, divorce, even marriage itself in our society,” he said.
“There are various traditions. The problem we have is the combination of our traditions and new religious beliefs. You will find an Igbo man who cannot speak Igbo language because he studied abroad. He will do traditional marriage then go to church again to get married in the church.
“The church wedding says if you marry, the couple become one while the Igbo tradition says when you marry a wife, she becomes your property. So when issues come up after the marriage, you now wonder which one to take.
“As for inheritance and divorce, in Islam, it is very clear how it is being done, but if you combine that with your tradition, you find out that women are being discriminated in a disadvantageous manner. There is a need for women who are involved in this advocacy to also engage in enlightenment.
“If you will marry, you will marry; either Christian or Muslim. I think this bill is timely and important and at the public hearing stage, we will look at this bill very well.”
While explaining the content of her bill, Olujimi, who is the deputy minority whip of the senate, said that it seeks equal rights for women in marriage, education and job.
In her bill, she said that a widow would automatically become the custodian of children in the event of the death of her husband, and would also inherit his property.
Speaking in support of the bill, Ike Ekeremadu, deputy senate president, stated that countries develop where women are given equal opportunities.
“Only last night, I was going through a document prepared by George Bush of America. Those countries that are doing well are those who give women opportunities,” he said.
“Where I come from, women don’t eat egg and are restricted from touching the non-essential parts of animal. But now that has changed. What is needed is time and education, not necessarily legislation. We will continue to encourage our women. I support this bill.”
Sani Yerima, a senator from Zamfara state, expressed aversion to the bill, arguing that it was in conflict with the Nigerian constitution.
He explained that the bill negates the principles of the Sharia law, which the constitutions regards.
Senate President Bukola Saraki put the bill to a vote, to which the opposing senators shouted a thunderous “nay”, and subsequently had their way.
The bill was being read a second time when it was rejected.
A similar bill was presented at the seventh senate by Chris Anyanwu, a former senator from Imo east, but it was rejected as well.
Yerima, former governor of Zamfara state who is now senator, played a pivotal role in the rejection of Anyanwu’s bill at that time. He was also the frontman of the opposition against the bill on Tuesday.
Other senators who opposed the bill are Adamu Aliero, a senator from Kebbi state, who argued that its provisions are inconsistent with Sharia law, and Emmanuel Bwacha, a senator from Taraba south who said that bill negates provisions of the constitution.