THE Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill passed second reading at the Senate on Wednesday, May 31.
The bill, which seeks to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls, was sponsored by the senator representing Ekiti South in the 8th National Assembly Biodun Olujimi in 2016.
The bill is aimed at ensuring equal opportunities for every Nigerian based on Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The proposed legislation also seeks to guarantee government protection and empowerment of women and the implementation of laws relating to female representation in government.
“You will find this bill beneficial for the clear and constructive ways the bill seeks to address several forms of issues bedevilling men and women in their constituencies in issues of land ownership, inheritance, education, employment and the rising tide of sexual and gender-based violence in private and public spaces of institutions of learning.
“The bill further consolidates senate’s courageous passage of the bill on sexual violence in higher institutions in Nigeria, assuring girls, women and men of protection from abuse and exploitation in our schools,” Olujimi said.
The clamour for gender equality has been on for years, with women groups and civil society organisations advocating for change and an end to gender-based violence.
The bill was stepped down at least three times in the past due to several challenges, including religious concerns.
In the 8th Senate, the bill was rejected on the grounds that its provisions could not be implemented in all parts of the country as it contravenes the principles of Islamic religion and culture.
It was also stepped back in 2021 due to similar opposition by members of the Senate.
Senator representing Taraba-Central Yusuf A. Yusuf opposed the bill, stating that equal opportunities as provided by the bill contradict provisions of the Holy Qur’an.
“I oppose the passage of this bill for second reading until the word ‘equal opportunity is removed,” Yusuf said.
The senator representing Sokoto-North Aliyu Wamakko also expressed his displeasure with the concept of equal opportunities for women and men.
“When it comes to socio-cultural practices, it is wrong. When you talk of equity it is okay. When you talk of equality it is no. I will not support it,” Wamakko said.