Travail of Nigerian women

Considering various trending hashtags: #SayNoToRapists, #NoToRape, #EndRapeCulture, #JusticeForOurGirls, you would think that you were in India or South Africa. But this is Nigeria today, the recent spate of sexual abuse and rape across the country is real.

The horrible sins against Nigerian women and girls have outraged many Nigerians, including the president, who was moved to offer his deepest condolences to the family and friends of one of the most recent victims, expressing the hope that all the culprits would be brought to justice. Nigerians are still waiting.

Meanwhile, these are not the best of times to be a woman in Nigeria, especially in the judicial branch of our government. Modern disrespect for Nigerian women by the Nigerian state has been traced to the 1999 Constitution, commissioned by an all-male provisional ruling council.

In the book, ‘Nigeria’s Struggle for Democracy and Good Governance’, which I edited 16 years ago with Professors Adigun Agbaje and Larry Diamond, former president of the Civil Liberties Organisation, Ayo Obe, wrote a powerful chapter on citizenship rights and the Nigerian Constitution that starkly revealed how Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution tried to foist inequality on women.

In particular, she cited the way foreign women who marry Nigerian men are allowed by the constitution to register to be Nigerian citizens, while foreign men who marry Nigerian women “need not apply” for this.

When Nigeria’s women are not being victimised by such crass chauvinism, they become the victim of the ‘state of origin’ conundrum, which designed to engender inclusiveness has become more often a vicious weapon of political exclusion.

In Nigeria’s federation, a citizen who marries a man from a state other than her own loses her indigene status if she dares to live with her husband in his own state of origin. Only in Nigeria!

 

Felix Oladeji,

Ibadan.

 

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