By Bisi Olateru-Olagbegi & Biola Akiyode Afolabi (Executive Director WARDC)
Up to date :
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
It is intriguing to note that the subordination of women knows no boundaries or barriers and is not dependent on the social, educational or economic status of the Nigerian women. Consequently, one finds that an uneducated and poor woman in the rural community suffers as much subordination as an educated and rich woman in the urban center.
Furthermore, the effects of the many years of military misrule have negatively affected the human rights treatment of the citizens of which women are worst sufferers. In addition, the economic downturn as a result of the mismanagement and corruption of the military governments has impoverished Nigeria, placing it as one of the poorest countries despite her enormous natural and human resources. Nigerian women bear the brunt of poverty and constitute the poorest of the poor in the society.
During marriage the woman suffers inferior status in the home, she is not part of decision-making, denied inheritance rights as a child or wife and is a victim of domestic violence and marital rape. In the society the woman is a victim of various forms of sexual assaults without redress, denied access to credit and suffers poverty more than her male counterpart despite her enormous contribution to the Nigerian economy especially in the informal sector. The Nigerian women are underrepresented in the political arena in the public or private sectors, which further lowers their status in the society.
Nigerian women were not in the military hierarchy therefore could not be members of the highest legislative and executive body combined in the various military ruling councils.
POSITION MALE FEMALE TOTAL %FEMALE
In Nigeria women suffer inequality and various forms of violence from the cradle until death. At birth a male child is preferred and pampered, the girl child is not so welcomed. She undergoes female genital mutilation at tender age, she is subjected to overburdening household chores to prepare her for the societal role of home keeping, she is also given out in marriage at early ages to ensure that she does not become promiscuous and is married out as a virgin. During and after marriage she is inferior to the man. She is also not allowed to inherit, and subjected to physical, psychological and mental abuse and violence.
In a report by a Non-Governmental Organization in Nigeria  conducted on social welfare officers to find out the prevalence of domestic violence, it showed that 55% of the cases received in the last one year, was on women battering/maltreatment. In another nationwide research has also shown that the police are reluctant to take action where cases of domestic violence are reported to them. It is believed that it is a private affair and should be settled by the parties or their extended family.
Rape for instance, under the Nigerian Laws attract the punishment of life imprisonment and is defined in a gender specific manner as “Having carnal knowledge of or sexual intercourse with a woman or a girl without her consent or under duress.” .
The manner in which rape trials are conducted and the nature of evidence required exposes the woman victim to indignity, making it a man’s trial, but a woman’s tribulation. In our criminal justice system, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution and guilt must be established beyond reasonable doubt. However, in practice the victim is required to prove that she did not consent to rape. Quite often, medical evidence will show that the victim was raped but failure to provide ‘corroboration” will jeopardize the prosecution’s case. The requirement of penetration to prove rape cases which though is not part of the definition of rape but has been used over the years in decided cases has also denied women victims of rape the deserved justice from the law courts. It has been suggested that the law needs to be redefined and the Evidence Act amended.
FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
WAY FORWARD :
- Need to undertake a comprehensive review of the constitution to further the promotion and protection of women’s rights so as to have the legal framework for the enhancement of the status and welfare of women.
- Need for the effective enforcement of the laws.
- Equal access to the laws, irrespective of wealth and gender.
- Need to incorporate the principle of equality of women and men in Nigeria’s legal system.
- Review laws that are discriminatory against women.
- Ensure effective elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organization and enterprises.
- Use temporary special measure (affirmative action) to ensure women’s advancement.
- Need for NGOs to strengthen their efforts to increase awareness in local communities, working with traditional authorities and community leaders to educate and reach the mass of the people.