The contentious Gender Equality Bill has passed second reading at the senate.
Nigeria gained international notoriety in October 2015 when the senate rejected the original version of the bill on religious and cultural grounds. Following a meeting brokered last year by the senate president, Bukola Saraki, between the key proponents and opponents of the bill, it was resolved that it should be reintroduced.
On Thursday, Ekiti South senator, Abiodun Olujimi, who led the proposition debate on the bill said that its intention was not to undermine anyone’s beliefs but to create equal opportunities for women.
”It seeks to promote equality and development of all persons in Nigeria,” she said.
“To guarantee effectiveness, the bill adopts special measures on discrimination against persons. It provides that all appropriate measures be taken to eliminate discrimination against women in private and public life.
”It also prohibits all forms of violence against women, whether political, domestic or cultural. It prohibits all forms of trafficking in women.”
Speaking on the bill, Ike Ekweremadu, deputy senate president, said that some sections of the bill were already in the constitution.
And he suggested that those sections be looked into at the committee stage.
However, Olusola Adeyeye, senate chief whip, disagreed with him, saying that affirmative laws were needed to address the problem of gender inequality.
Also speaking, Remi Tinubu, a senator from Lagos central, urged her colleagues to support the bill.
“I rise to support this bill, and I urge my colleagues to do the same. We cannot undermine the role of women in society,” she said.
After a brief debate on the bill, Senate President Bukola Saraki called a voice vote, and the senate voted overwhelmingly for it to pass second reading.
Thereafter, Saraki referred the bill to the committee on judiciary, human rights and legal matters for more legislative treatment.