HISTORY OF WOMEN’S RIGHT IN NIGERIA

Nigeria has seen progressive advances in women's rights and status over the years, moving from a patriarchal society to one where women have equal opportunity in several areas of life.

CHAMAN LAW FIRM

6/13/2022 3 min read

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HISTORY OF WOMEN’S RIGHT IN NIGERIA

Nigeria has seen progressive advances in women's rights and status over the years, moving from a patriarchal society to one where women have equal opportunity in several areas of life.

PRE- INDEPENDENCE COLONIAL ERA

Nigeria, a multicultural country had wide range of cultural practices. The various ethnic groups have distinct norms and customs controlling their areas even before colonialism and subsequent independence.

As a result, there were societies where women were recognized as the dominating party in ethnic communities, such as the Ohafia Igbos and some Tiv, these societies are called matrilineal society .There others where women had no inheritance rights, such as large parts of the Igbo ethnicity. In the meantime, the Yoruba counterparts were be able to inherit properties. There were tribes where women had no say in who they married and were betrothed without consent, such as the Hausas and Fulanis. This was one of several practices that subjugated women.

Due to the arrival of colonization, attempts were made to develop an uniform legal system that would administer all of Nigeria. As a result, colonial powers made a failed endeavor, which resulted in the formation of regions in 1954. Laws were enacted for the administration of each regions.

ABA WOMEN RIOT OF 1929

In 1929, a time when the society was dominated by the male gender and women had no say in policy formulation, history and Nigeria witnessed one of the largest demonstrations for women's rights. Thousands of Igbo women from the Bende District, Umuahia, and other parts of eastern Nigeria marched to Oloko to protest the Warrant Chiefs, whom they accused of limiting women's roles in government. Women from six ethnic groups took part in the demonstration (Igbo, Ibibio, Andoni, Ogoni, Efik, and Ijaw).

It was West Africa's first significant women's uprising. The colonial administration abolished the warrant chieftain system in 1930, and women were appointed to the Native Court system. African women built on these reforms, which were considered as a forerunner to the formation of African nationalism. Subsequently, women but very few were elected as members of the Legislative council along their male counterpart. In 1958, women in southern Nigeria were granted the right to vote. Their northern neighbors were only granted the same freedom in 1978, after a 20-year wait! In addition, the Sharia law that governs Northern States restricts women in a variety of ways.

POST- INDEPENDENCE

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has to some extent made provisions for the Rights of Women. Nigeria also became a signatory to a number of treaties and a member of other organizations. The treaties, however, will only be effective if they are enacted into our domestic legislation, as stated in section 12 of the Constitution.

Some of these treaties and conventions are:

1. African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

2. African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

3. Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Women in Africa 4. AU Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa

5. Universal Declaration of Human Rights Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women(CEDAW)

6. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

7. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Convention Against Torture and other Cruel – Inhuman or degrading Treatment or Punishment

8. Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women 9. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

CURRENT DISCRIMINATORY PROVISIONS IN THE NIGERIAN LAW

Despite these advancements in human rights, several laws in Nigeria continue to limit women's rights in various aspects. As an illustration, Section 26 of CFRN, 1999 covering the subject of citizenship by Registration only makes provision for foreign women married to Nigerian men. It was noted in one of the Memoranda by the Gender and Constitution Reform Network (2013) that, ‘the denial of citizenship to foreign spouses to Nigerian Women has wreaked hardship on the stability of many marriages.’ The Legislature can take a cue from the Ghanaian Constitution, Article 7 which gives the right to apply for citizenship to both the man and woman married to any Ghanaian Citizen.

In addition to this, certain discriminatory restrictions exist in the Nigerian Police Regulation. Section 121 provides that a woman would not be allowed privileges simply because she is married, and she would be subject to postings and transfers as if she were not married. Also Section 122 prohibits enlistment of a married woman into the force.

Women's rights are human rights, and they are better now than they were 20 years ago. It is a slow process that involves altering laws and regulations, gaining hearts and minds, and investing in strong women's groups and movements, all while keeping an open mind to societal changes.

NB: This article is not a legal advice, and under no circumstance should you take it as such. All information provided are for general purpose only. For information, please contact chamanlawfirm@gmail.com

WRITTEN BY CHAMAN LAW FIRM TEAM

EMAIL: chamanlawfirm@gmail.com

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