A Nigerian lawmaker, Senator Biodun Olujimi, sponsor of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill in the Senate, has alleged that wives of male lawmakers opposed the proposition of 18 years as the minimum age for marriage.
She said the wives of her male colleagues also rejected the gender bill before their husbands thrashed it in the Senate.
Senator Olujimi made the allegation while speaking at a one-day Policy Dialogue on the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill in Nigeria, organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies with the support of the UN Women and Canadian Government.
ThisDay reports that Senator Olujimi explained that she and other female senators decided to engage the wives of her male colleagues in the upper legislative chamber so that they could influence their spouses to support the gender bill.
Unfortunately, the engagement with the senators, according to her, was a disaster as the majority of them rejected the bill based on their religious sentiments and beliefs.
“The issue of the GEO Bill is important to me not only because I am a woman but because it is just and proper to do the right thing. About 51.2 percent of Nigeria’s population are women.
“That portion of the society must be taken care of. The bill has suffered in three different assemblies and the reason is very simple. It is because it is based on gender. If it were to be a general issue, it would have passed.
“I brought it up in the last Senate because I discovered that there was no law governing the affairs of women generally and I felt that it was not good enough.
“The rejection of the bill in the 9th Assembly was not the fault of men. It was based on the nuances of the women.
“What happened was that we, female senators, gathered all the wives of our male colleagues for a meeting where we pleaded with them to help us talk to their husbands to support the bill.
“We were very surprised when the majority of the senators’ spouses responded that they would not do such things because their religious conviction has taken care of such issues already.
“We tried everything possible to convince them but they did not change their minds. For instance, they were not in support of making 18 years, as the age of marriage. They also said Islam had taken care of the issue of women regarding inheritance.
“So, the first issue we had against the bill was with women. That of the men came later. It was because the men said they were not conversant with the word ‘equality’ because the husband is not supposed to have equal rights at home with the wife,” Senator Olujimi said.
However, the female lawmaker said she had met with religious organisations, civil society groups and international agencies to discuss the frustrations the bill had encountered.
According to her, the outcome of the series of meetings she has had so far led to the reintroduction of another bill captioned “Gender and Equitable Opportunities Bill, 2022.”
She expressed optimism that the new bill, which has passed its first reading in the Senate, would be passed before the end of the 9th Assembly, as she pointed out that the contentious issues that bordered on religion had been removed from the new bill.