Nigerian laws, cultures, traditions unfavourable to women –Activists, lawyers

Some human rights activists and legal practitioners across the country, yesterday, said Nigerian laws, customs and traditions are unfavourable to the womenfolk, saying the human rights of any Nigerian are not optional but fundamental.


The activists spoke in the light of the recent development where the Nigerian Police Force dismissed a single lady, Corporal Olajide Omolola, for being pregnant outside wedlock, citing Section 127 of the Police Act and Regulation which stipulates that female police officers are not allowed to get pregnant before marriage.


This prompted the Ekiti State government last week to sue the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, seeking an order of the court to declare Section 127 of the Police Act and Regulations invalid.


However, according to the people Sunday Telegraph spoke to, Corporal Omolola is just the latest victim of discriminatory laws, traditions and cultures in Nigeria.


More often than not, female employees are discouraged from getting married while the married ones are explicitly warned against getting pregnant until they must have gotten clearance from management before doing so.


For Emeka Ndukwe Esq, the Managing Partner, Emeka Ndukwe and Co., Nigerian banks and other big private organisations use all manners of rules to discourage women from getting pregnant, ranging from forfeiture of salaries to specified time range for pregnancy and even sacking the pregnant ones in the process.


He noted that female employees are, in some cases, also denied full maternity leave in the banking sector against the three-month leave prescribed by Nigerian Labour Law on the basis that they must not let their tasks suffer while on maternity leave.


The Nigerian Labour Law, Sunday Telegraph learnt, stipulates three months maternity leave for any employed woman who puts to bed, yet some banks grant only a fraction of that as maternity leave for their female staff.


He continued: “There was a case where a woman took leave before being delivered of a baby, which she lost few hours after its birth, and the manager of the bereaved mother, while she was still mourning her loss, called on her to resume duty the following week, since she no longer had a baby to take care off.”


Corroborating him, Barr Sunny Ekwu, a member of a Prolife Group, which comprises lawyers, activists and clerics among others, said the law gives everybody equal rights to thrive in his or her working environment, saying women should not be exceptions to this inalienable right.


Accepting that Nigerian laws are unfavourable to women, he said a lady was involved in a bank’s recruitment interview when she was few weeks pregnant and was told by the bank’s interviewers that she would be employed on the condition that she does not get pregnant until a couple of years after joining the bank, not knowing she was already few weeks on, but the lady declined the offer.


“We need a society, law, customs and tradition that will not be discriminatory against any Nigerian, based on gender or otherwise. We need to reform our system and educate our people and encourage the women to speak up for appropriate action to end these discriminatory laws and traditions,” he added.


In the same manner, Oluwakemi Udoh said cultures and religion determine societal beliefs, norms and attitudes towards women in Nigeria, despite the provision of civil laws and international  treaties, saying that culture has pervasive influence on women rights in Nigeria.


He asserts that in the North- East in Nigeria, only four per cent of land is owned by women while in the South- East and South-South geographical zones of the country, they own just a little over 10 per cent of the land. “The reason for this is anchored on the customary laws.


The major feature in inheritance law across the different tribes and cultures in Nigeria is discrimination against women in property sharing. Even some parents do not send their girl children to school,” he said.


Speaking on the law that was cited before Olajide was sacked, the Founder, CLEEN Foundation and the Regional Director for Ford Foundation, West Africa, who has been in legal advocacy for police reforms, Barr Innocent Chukwuma, said the aspect of the Act which barred unmarried policewomen from getting pregnant had been repealed.


However, on the way forward, Sheriff Folarin said the role of religion and cultures in realisation of women rights to property begins by affirming that protecting women’s rights to property in Nigeria is a fundamental step towards achieving the 5th Sustainable Development Goal of gender equality


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