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Implementation Of Gender Legislation In Edo State (2)

(By ESOHE OYEMWENSE) Last Update (July 9, 2020)

In Lopez v. Lopez, the court stated quite categorically that both sons and daughters have rights of inheritance to land in Yoruba custom. In Folami v. Cole, re-affirming the view in Ricardo v. Abal, the courts accepted the proposition that a female child has an inheritance right to be a correct statement of rules.

It also went further to hold that when a man dies leaving two houses and two children, male and female, the female child or older has a right to choose first as to which house she wants when the property is eventually partitioned. Little wonder therefore that Yoruba women relatively are more economically advantaged than their Edo counterparts.

The deprivation of the widow of the rights of inheritance or succession offends the principles of equity, good conscience and natural justice. This is because the widow, during the lifetime of her husband, may have toiled to bring about the acquisition of that property.

Also, there is no human means to measure the psychological trauma such a woman will undergo at the sudden loss of all that once symbolized her stability and comfort.
In Ogiamien v. Ogiamien, the plaintiff and her children brought an action against the defendants, the first son of the deceased and the Head of the family of the deceased husband, asking for restraining orders on the defendants from preventing the plaintiffs’ children from participating in the burial of their father.

Orders were also sought restraining the defendants from evicting the widow from her matrimonial home of forty-two years. Her deceased husband’s family had written a letter to the plaintiff and her children, disowning them because the widow, being a Christian, had refused to perform the burial rites by the children of the deceased which is a pre-requisite for inheritance.

The court granted her request on the first application and her children were able to attend the burial unmolested but the plaintiff had to vacate her home after 42 years of marriage.

Cases like this abound where the widow, after the loss of her husband is left with nothing, no where to go and no one to turn to. In our days of widespread Christianity, lip service appears to be paid to the scriptures where it is written.

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Further, this practice is a violation of the provisions of S.42(1) and S.43 of the 1999 constitution. The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to which Nigeria is a signatory, provides in Article 16 for the rights of a women all over the world to not only own immovable property but also to give away such property at will.

It has been said that the tripartite system of Common law, Customary law and Sharia have slowed the pace towards gender equality in Nigeria through the perpetuation of customary and religious practices which negatively affect women.

Economic Restraints

A lot of disparities exist between women’s legal rights and their economic status. Even though the number of women is roughly half of the estimated 120 million population of Nigeria, women have consistently remained poorer than their male counterparts.

This may be traced to the social preference to educate the male child in preference to the female. This is also attributable to the social mindset that any training or education given to the girl-child will only enhance the status of her husband and not the family of her father.

In recent times, the number of women who have joined the work/labour force has increased greatly yet only a few handful have attained decision making positions like Dr. (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili, Dr. (Mrs.) Okonjo-Iweala, Miss Ifueko Omoigui; Prof. GraceAlele-Williams and Prof. Amaze Guobadia.

Forced childhood marriage deprives the girl-child of the opportunity of enjoying her youth and developing at her own pace. This is often times inimical to the psyche of the child.

The schools also play a part in entrenching gender inequality. Generally in the schools, the female child is groomed along the line of the future home helper. She is expected to enroll for subjects such as Home-Economics while the male child is often encouraged to proceed to the ‘Chemistry laboratory’. The pictures on her textbooks often depict the man as the doctor, Engineer etc while the nurse, cook or house keeper is a picture of a woman.

This unconsciously tailors the mind of the female to believe that it is manly to earn certain professions. This in turn affects her future earning capacity.

Bias and discriminatory welfare packages also restrain the development of gender equality. The unmarried female is more likely to face sexual harassment at the place of work than the married woman. This is because respect is better accorded a woman with a husband’s protection, whether or not she needs such protection. The woman is presumed to be under the maintenance and care of her husband and so tax relief and exemptions do not avail her.

The plight of the expectant mother is no different. The principal statute that provides for the welfare of labour is the Labour Act but even that contains no provision for an employee to be absent from work for ante-natal care. Pregnant employees have been known to rely on the goodwill of their immediate supervisors for leave of absence.

With the ever increasing complexities of life, there is an increase in the insensitive manner in which these pregnant women are being treated. It is no longer enough to rely on the goodwill of these employers. There is need now for legislation in that regards.

Women in the rural areas make up in most cases the majority of the work force, farming and trading in order to be able to cater for their families. Yet the mental habit in our society is to picture the man when the word farmer’ is mentioned.

Women’s right to life can be considered under the rubric of health; Health can be defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Owing to their disadvantaged economic status, women usually bear the scourge and stigma associated with infections and diseases like HIV/AIDS, Syphilis etc.

The scorn which follows a woman who purchases a packet of condoms in a pharmacy has left many dying from the ravages from unprotected sexual intercourse.

Modern day slavery which is trafficking in women and young persons has also been attributed to discrimination in economic power. Every year, women are trafficked in droves in search of the proverbial greener pastures. In 1992, the CEDAW committee concluded in its recommendation 19 that prostitution and trafficking inhuman beings are forms of violence against women.

If we argue otherwise, then we choose to ignore the poverty and oppression that makes women and girls vulnerable to pimps and traffickers and that drives them into prostitution, keep them there and sometimes eventually kill them.

The effects of prostitution on the woman’s health are grave. Studies have shown that prostituted women suffer psychological injuries similar to war veterans and survivors of torture such as flashbacks, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances and stress.

Prostitution is rooted in structural and individual oppression and marginalisation of women by men; and so, in order to prevent women from remaining victims, policies and measures that strengthen the conditions of girls and women must be implemented.

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