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Gender equality bill anti-Islam, women cannot be equal to men: Northern Senators

Abiodun Olujimi has faced relentless opposition since first proposing the bill in 2015

• December 15, 2021
Lawan and Olujimi composite
Lawan and Olujimi composite used to illustrate the story

Northern senators on Wednesday kicked against a proposed law for women empowerment in Nigeria, saying its content contradicts Islam and northern cultural values.

Senator Abiodun Olujimi of Ekiti has been pushing to get the bill through the parliament since 2016, but some senators have raised different concerns to get the bill shut down or at least returned to the initial stages.

Mrs Olujimi said the bill will “allow for the prohibition of all forms of discrimination against women and provide for the equality of all persons,” including people of determination in the society.

But some northern senators said the bill was not properly worded, especially its title that seeks equality rather than equity; while arguing strongly that it would contravene the tenets of Islam.

“This equality infringes on the Quran,” Abubakar Yusuf, representing Taraba Central Senatorial District, said at today’s plenary. “I will not support the passage of the bill until the word equality is removed. When you bring equality into it infringes on the Quran.”

In his argument, Aliyu Wammako, representing Sokoto North Senatorial District, said he will not support the bill as currently framed.

“When it comes to socio-cultural practices, it is wrong,” Mr Wamakko said. “When you talk of equity it is okay. When you talk of equality I will not support it.”

But Senator IIstifanus Gyang from Plateau North said the bill holds crucial elements to Nigeria’s social and economic development.

“Women have been at the receiving end of being excluded,” the senator said while expressing his support. “Women are entitled to equal opportunities. Being a woman is not being less human.”

Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the concerns of northern senators should be addressed before the bill could scale through.

Mrs Olujimi has faced relentless opposition since first proposing the bill in 2015. The bill suffered through the Eighth Assembly without passage, but she said her determination made her present the bill for consideration in the current Ninth Assembly.

In 2016, some senators rejected the bill, saying it would make women become lesbians and prostitutes. The argument was rejected by civic groups, who warned that failure to pass the bill could leave Nigeria behind amongst countries seeking to score better in global development indicators.

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