Benue govt initiates bill to protect widows

THE Benue State government has enacted a bill to protect widows from harmful cultural practices in the state.

The bill is aimed at curtailing the impact of negative cultural practices upon the death of their husbands.

The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Governor Samuel Ortom, Terver Akase, disclosed this in a statement on Saturday, April 22.

According to him, if the bill is passed and signed into law, it will end one of the age-long negative traditional practices among the people in the state.

He said the bill was necessary due to the popularity of these cultural beliefs among diverse ethnic groups

Akase identified some harmful practices  as “the disinheritance from assets of a deceased husband, banishment from a late husband’s home, being forced to marry a relation of the deceased husband”.

“Most often, such widows have children for the deceased and have the task of nurturing the children without any assistance from the relatives of the deceased. In some instances, some are denied their fundamental rights enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

“It is in face of such a helpless situation of widows that the Ortom administration has initiated the bill in order to assuage the position of widows as regards inheritance of their late husbands’ assets and to protect and guarantee their fundamental rights as well as obviate the obnoxious cultural practices which deny them the right of inheriting their late husbands’ property amongst others,” he said.

The bill also proposes creating a commission to oversee the welfare of widows in the state.

Akase noted that the proposed agency is called the Benue State Widows Commission. It will have the power and responsibility to support, protect and build the capacity of widows in the state.

“The Benue State Widows Commission envisioned by the proposed law will have the power and responsibility to support, protect and build the capacity of widows in the state whereby they can own their property and inherit the assets of their deceased husbands.

“It shall be the duty of the Commission to, among others, coordinate and monitor the implementation of widows programmes and activities; initiate and support measures which shall enhance the welfare of widows; assist widows by providing support services.“

There have been calls for the government to make legislation to protect and empower widows in Nigeria.

Several women-centred organisations have pointed out the need to draw attention to the voices and experiences of widows and to galvanise the unique support they require.

According to the International Women Society (IWS), 15 million widows in Nigeria are living in abject poverty.

Also, Eunice Ortom, wife of the Benue governor, had appealed for the elimination of cultural practices harmful to widows.






     

     

    She indicated that widows faced demeaning situations ranging from rights abuses and indignity.

    She also said many women had lost their lives to harmful widowhood practices, noting that most widows were ejected from their homes at the death of their spouses.

    “They are denied even access to farmland and the right to other inheritances.

    “In some cases, their children are taken away from them and they are denied access to the children,’’ Ortom said.

    Beloved John is an investigative reporter with International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

    You can reach her via: [email protected]

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