Raids on Night Clubs and Discrimination Against Women in Nigeria
By Jummai Mohammed (Nigeria)
A SPEECH DELIVERED BY JUMMAI MOHAMMED, THE WELFARE COORDINATOR, HUMANIST ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA, LAGOS CHAPTER ON THE OCCASION OF THE CELEBRATION OF THE WORLD HUMANIST DAY ON 23RD OF JUNE, 2019.
On Wednesday, 17th of April, 2019, the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) with the help of joints task force of the Nigeria Police Force raided Caramelo Night Club located on Plot 630, Cadastral Utako, Abuja. It led to the arrest of 34 strip dancers. Two weeks after, the Caramelo Night Club arrests, the Police took it upon themselves to arrest more ladies in other clubs and joints around Utako.
Martin Obono, a lawyer and activist said to have witnessed when the ladies were brought to a Police station in Utako, Abuja. Mr. Obono shared his experience with Premium Times after first posting them on Twitter. In his words, he wrote, “As I type, 70 girls were arrested and brought to Utako Police Station last night. This is in addition to the ones who were arrested on Friday night; their offence: clubbing and in some instance alleged prostitution. Some have been assaulted with injuries in their vaginas. He wrote further that one of the ladies arrested”. He wrote further that one of the ladies arrested has a two months old baby which she was not allowed to breastfeed by the CPO in charge on duty despite continuous please amidst tears. He said the joint task force that arrested some of these women have been allegedly molesting and assaulting them. “Some even showed the bruises and bleeding in their vagina, Mr. Obono wrote on his Twitter handle.
Discrimination is a distinct treatment of an individual or group to their disadvantage. The distinct treatment is always based on class, gender, tribes, category etc. In Nigeria, discrimination against women is evident in all the geopolitical zones. The tools used as instruments of oppression for women have always been religion and tradition, which have placed modern Nigerian women in the lowest ring of poverty.
Religiously, women are being discriminated against. In most cases, the imported religions are much more discriminating than the native one. The advent of Islam and Christianity together with colonialism did not advance the interest of women. This is evident in patriarchal systems from these beliefs.
Nigeria women recorded significantly lower levels in the country’s tertiary institutions, teaching and medical profession. Educating girls is still widely perceived as being of less value in some quarters to educating boys. There are proportionately more dropouts among girls than boys. If by any means a girl became pregnant, she will be forced to terminate her education and in most cases not given the chance to continue with the education after the baby is being delivered.
The hope that the injustice to girls will discourage immorality is in vain because boys who are usually the main culprits are not punished in the same way and so will continue to seduce girls. (Amad 1982: 77)
In the occupational structure, women have faced severe gender discrimination that hinders their social mobility. They are socialised into lower statuses and more restricted self-images. In terms of rewards, women’s occupation usually has lower reward than men occupation. Women in the workforce are systematically discriminated against, kept in lower paying jobs, denied equal opportunities for advancement and laid off quickly than the men.
Politically, the woman is marginalised, the hardly gets the permission to venture into politics as men believe that home keeping should be their priority and not how the society is governed. The mode of operation of political parties in Nigeria is one of the factors, inhibiting women’s participation in politics. Most political parties hold their meetings at night, which discourages many women especially married ones. To crown it all, the men and the women themselves sometimes believe that the woman does not have the requisite economic power to indulge in dirty political ideals characterised by money shows, violence, assassinations and other vices. Women are not adequately represented at the Senate, national and state legislatures and the House of Representatives, despite their numerical strength. Also, at the state House of Assembly and the local government area councils, women are either completely absent or grossly underrepresented as well as in the highest decision making level. (Executive, Legislature & Judiciary).
The Mass Media
Interestingly, the mass media is also culpable in the discrimination and subjugation of women in Nigeria. Both in the professional and representation in the society, the mass media paint the woman as an entity perpetually subordinate to the man. Nigerian films are ideological apparatuses or devices that perpetuate the images, myths, ideas, concepts or discourses that aim at fixing women in negative lower positions in their relationship with men and their actual living conditions. Most editorial decisions are made by the men in the media. The man is glorified as the hero while the woman is seen as the subordinate. Most cover stories are originated by the men, leaving the fashion and kitchen pages for the women.
Constitutionally, the Nigerian legal system discriminates against women. The legal system is made up of tripartite system of laws (Statutory, customary and Sharia) which makes it of the basic stipulations of the Nigerian constitution which requires that all citizens regardless of gender, circumstances of birth, tribe etc shall have equal rights, obligations and opportunities before the law.
It is surprising that despite the existence of anti-discriminatory laws and legislations against the Nigeria citizens, the law in practice constitutionally guaranteed discrimination against women. The constitution itself contains provisions that discriminate against women, and administrative regulations and practices exist which breach these guarantees with impunity. There is no known case where the Nigerian constitution was relied upon to challenge human rights violations of women by a private person.
The constitution provides in section 26 (2) that a woman who is or has been married to a citizen of Nigeria may be registered as a citizen of Nigeria, but silent as to whether a woman married to a foreign national can confer Nigerian nationality on her foreign husband. It implies that a woman is incapable to confer Nigerian citizenship on her husband. This is a direct infringement to Article 9 (1) of CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women) which posits equality for women in matters pertaining to nationality.
Discriminatory provisions also exist in many public law statutes. For instance, section 353 of the Penal Code which applies to the southern states in Nigeria, provides that an indecent assault against a man is a felony, punishable by three years in prison. But section 360 holds that the same offence against women is punishable with only two years of imprisonment. It is worrisome that distinction remains in the statute books, especially when it is a known fact that indecent assault is an offence that is often committed against women. Does it mean that the law implies that, the offence is of less gravity when committed against women?
Discriminatory provisions also exist in the 1963 cap 89 Nigerian Penal Code, which is applicable to the northern Nigeria states that have not adopted Sharia law. For instance, Chapter 55 of the Penal Code permits the husband to use physical means to chastise their wives as long as it does not result in “grievous harms” which is defined as loss of sight, hearing, speech, facial disfigurement or life threatening injuries. Although, the constitution provides for equality and freedom from discrimination; there are no laws that criminalize gender-based violence, while some federal laws condone such violence.
Also, under the Police Act (Chapter 359, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990), the provisions regulating the conduct of Police officers provide that an unmarried woman who becomes pregnant shall be discharged from the force and may not be re-enlisted with the consent of the Inspector General (Regulation 127, Police Act, 1990). Another regulation permits a serving female Police officer may only marry, with the consent of the Commissioner of Police, if she has served for at least three years and her intended husband is of good character (Regulation 124 and 125, Police Act, 1990).
The Marriage Act (Marriage Act, Chapter 218, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990) provides that written consent is necessary where either party to an intended marriage is under 21 years. However, this consent must be from the father, a mother’s consent is only acceptable if the father is dead or of an unsound mind. Also, in Nigeria, a woman needs the consent of the father to get a passport for the child while the man does not need consent from the wife to get their child a passport.
Gender discrimination is now universally recognised as unethical, almost every western country strives towards gender equality by ensuring that both men and women enjoy equal opportunities in such important fields as education, politics, economy and commerce.
In Nigeria, deliberate efforts are made towards improving the status of women through policies and programmes based on gender consideration. However, there are factors militating against such efforts which are mainly religion and tradition. This is evident in the equality bill presented to the Senate by Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti State) in the year 2016. The bill was rejected by the Senate on the ground that enacting a law to accord women equal rights with men was “Un-African and anti-religious”.
Senator Yerima from Zamfara State condemned the bill, arguing that it was in conflict with the Nigeria constitution. He stressed further by arguing that in Islam, women get half of men’s share in inheritance and it’s unacceptable to change it. As at the time of passing of the bill, there were only 7 women out of the 109 senate members.
Traditionally, some parts of Nigeria laws discriminate against women. For instance, customary law bars the female child, irrespective of the circumstances of her birth, from inheriting or partaking in the sharing of the property and estate of her father.
Female genital mutilation which is being practised traditionally in most Nigeria cultures in which the external genitalia of girls and young women are partially or totally removed in a bid to deprive them of sexual enjoyment/satisfaction is also discriminatory; because women as well have the right to sexual enjoyment; it is their biological right.
Abdullahi Garba Kangiwa (2015), Gender Discrimination and Feminism in Nigeria. Aminu Hassan Gamawa (2013), How Nigeria Legalises Discrimination Against Women (Premium Times).
Gender Inequality in Nigeria. ThisDay (2017)
Gender Inequality and Official Discrimination against Women by Nigeria agencies. Sahara Reporters (2010).