Why sexual discrimination laws may not work in Nigeria

In the Nigerian cultural system, the society is structured in a way that defines roles for specific gender which basically indicates that men are heads of families and women are their subordinates and must respect and obey their leadership. These roles are created in line with societal beliefs on gender roles.

So it is an unwritten law that men are responsible for the financial upkeep of the family and women for taking care of the children and domestic work. This belief is so entrenched that if any individual tries to vary the conditions, there is condemnation even from the family setting. This is even more common when the person is a woman; she is harassed and intimidated into compliance.

These acts endear discrimination against women and cause flagrant abuse of their basic rights. As a patriarchal society, inequality against the female gender is naturally enhanced as the system not only arrogates power to men as heads and leaders in homes and the society but also makes available to them, advantages like inheritance rights, ownership of land and children, thereby economically empowering them at the detriment of the woman, many of whom are forced to depend on men especially in terms of finance.

Consequently, the Nigerian society trains boys for leadership activities and relegate girls to domestic activities, eroding their potential, their sense of self-worth and confidence as well as reducing opportunities available to them in terms of career path and aspirations.

Aside this, a huge factor that will make legislation ineffective is religion. In addition to culture and patriarchy, religion is also a major factor that promotes inequality that Nigerian women face as the major religions hold the tenet that God created men as leaders wherever they find themselves and women are expected to be subordinate and submit to their leadership.

This is why some men find it difficult to work under women in places of work and some male domestic staff fail to respect the women in the households where they serve; they have been indoctrinated with religious and cultural views from when they were young and this socialisation process makes them believe that a woman is nothing without a man. And as the Nigerian society continues to raise boys and educate them that the divine order from God is for them to be heads in the society and girls are being raised and trained to be good and virtuous wives, who must submit to their husbands and have no aspirations of their own, the line of gender inequality continues to stretch across the generations.

And as a result of the prominence that religion takes in the life of the average Nigerian, it has been found to be an effective tool in subduing women and robbing them of their potential and vision. Though gender inequality is a societal problem faced by women globally, it is more pronounced in the African society and has been a bane of development for ages.

And despite, wide interventions across the world in terms of legislation and charters, little has changed because culture and religion are so entrenched that beliefs have taken a stronghold and the mindset of many have become difficult to change. Indeed, as part of commitments to achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals to achieve gender equality by 2030. But as the benchmark moves nearer, the little steps taken at ensuring gender equality has made no obvious difference in Nigeria, despite being a member-state that has ratified international and regional instruments that advocate for the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls.

To be continued

And while there had been some positive developments towards reducing inequality, discrimination remains a major problem and it usually appears like for every step taken forward, two is taken backwards as a result of factors like tradition, culture, religion, social practices and discriminatory laws , both written and unwritten. These factors serve as major ones responsible for the lack of effectiveness of available domestic and international provisions against sexual discrimination.

This was proved in the periodic reports by the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) especially in its 1998 and 2003 report which indicates that discrimination is ingrained in the Nigerian culture and attitudes and being a traditional society, emphasis is placed on the role of women as that of a homemaker and baby factory as they are relegated to the background and placed in stereotypical roles which are instilled on them as children and they grow up to accept them as normal.

To be continued

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