20 Mar

Senator Laments Rejection Of Gender Equality Bill, #GEOBill

Senator Monsurat Sunmonu has lamented the rejection of the Gender Equality Bill by the Senate.

 

The senator who is Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs has expressed her disappointment that the Bill did not pass the Second Reading in the Senate.

 

The senator representing Oyo Central Senatorial District said that she fully backs the Bill and has added her voice to calls for the Bill to be re-presented before the Senate saying, “I am willing to lobby and discuss with my colleagues so that we can reach a consensus and create a workable draft that will pass scrutiny in the senate.”

 

She continued “As a woman I feel strongly about this Bill. A few weeks back it was International Women’s Day and the Senate hosted young girls in an effort to increase their participation in governance and politics. We can not let them down now”.

 

Shedding light on why the Bill did not pass the former Oyo state Speaker said, “Maybe there were a few sections of the Bill that did not sit well with some senators. Politics is about lobbying, negotiations and compromise, so what we need to do is talk to those who voted against the Bill and find a way to alleviate their concerns”.

 

She continued “It is in the interest of Nigerians to ensure that we have this law which protects equality in Nigeria, I am of the opinion that it will complement the Constitution and not be at odds with it.”

 

Below is the Transcript of her statement:

 

“As a woman, the Gender Equality Bill is a Bill that I feel strongly about. A few weeks back it was International Women’s Day and the Senate hosted young girls in an effort to increase their participation in governance and politics. We can not let them down now. The interesting thing is that even if I was a man I would still support the Bill because there are valid and cogent reasons why it will be good for Nigeria and Nigerians.

 

Our constitution in section 42 broadly provides for gender equality. All this Bill seeks to do is further codify these constitutionally enshrined principles in relation to education, employment and politics, while also prohibiting violence against women.

 

We must look at this Bill contextually: about 2 years ago, over 200 girls were snatched from their school in Chibok because some people believe that educating girls is wrong. If this government is able to pass and enact this Bill it sends a clear message to Nigerians that gender parity is on the cards and it is here to stay. It sends the message that we want our girls to be educated; and, opposition to that will not be tolerated. What this Bill seeks to do is ensure that the fair chance girls ought to have, to access bursaries and scholarships, is backed by law. Positive discrimination is a good way of achieving targets and has been used in Europe and the United States- the places that the majority of Nigerians aspire to. Do you know that UNICEF and United Nations research suggests that societies where women are empowered are the most prosperous?

 

A very positive intention of the Bill is to increase female participation in politics and governance. In this 8th Senate only 7 of us are female. That is rather disappointing considering that we women are more than half of the Nigerian population. I know what I faced when I ventured into politics; it takes a strong willed woman to assail these challenges because the stereotype and prejudice is prevalent. I always say that those of us who have made it through must open the door for the next generation. In the US they are on the verge of having their first female Presidential candidate, in Germany a woman is in charge, talk less of the UK where they had a female Prime Minister in the 1980’s. The days of women staying at home in the kitchen are gone and we must be part of the push to achieve that. I am privileged to be the first female Speaker in the history of Oyo state and I have set some records while I was Speaker, which are forever etched in the history books. I am a mother and it is imperative that all women work together to ensure that this Bill sees the light of day.

 

I know that the Bill seeks to prohibit violence- domestic and sexual- against women. Yes, we have laws against statutory rape but this Bill goes a step further and seeks to create raises the statutory age of consent to 18. Across the world the legal age of maturity is always between 16-18. So we must sit down and consider the peculiar circumstances we face in Nigeria and come up with a workable format.

 

Maybe there were a few sections of the Bill that did not sit well with some of my colleagues. Politics is about lobbying, negotiations and compromise, so what we need to do is talk to those who voted against the Bill and find a way to alleviate their concerns. I’m particularly referring to the portion that affords widows an equal/equitable share to inheritance of the property of her husband. As a Muslim, I have my beliefs on this and I am sure the Christians among us also have their opinions. But the beauty of democracy is that we must compromise to achieve our objective. I have said before, that I am willing to lobby and discuss with my colleagues so that we can reach a consensus and create a workable draft that will pass scrutiny in the senate.

 

It is in the interest of Nigerians to ensure that we have this law which protects equality in Nigeria, I am of the opinion that it will complement the Constitution and not be at odds with it. I support working towards creating an acceptable Gender Bill which can be put to the Senate floor and passed.”

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