A right is defined as a power, privilege or immunity guaranteed under a constitution, statute or case law or claimed as a result of long usage. In moral vocabulary, respect for rights is seen as a matter of justice. Rights can be asserted, demanded or stood upon
Women’s rights are entitlements, recognitions and positions the female folks demand and advocate for themselves in the society. In some countries, these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, whereas in others they are ignored and suppressed.
Issues associated with the women’s rights are many, they include the right to be free from sexual violence, to hold public office; to enter into legal contracts; to have equal rights in family to own property etc.
Today, the issue of Women’s rights has become a reverbrating word worldover. It is a great concern to many that women are deprived of their human rights. It has been a burning issue in different parts of the world, yet some think it is all a propaganda blown out of proportion usually because of religious or cultural inclination.
The international law provisions on the rights of women are clear. Some of these international legislations, protocols and declarations include Article 1 of the Declaration of Human Rights which states that “all human beings are born free and equal.”
Also Article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979 and ratified by Nigeria in 1984, which encourages nations to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women with the view to eliminating inferiority and superiority of either sexes or stereotype roles of men and women.
The Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa reaffirms the principle of gender equality as enshrined in Article 4(1) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) was domesticated in Nigeria in form of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights
According to the Article, the State shall ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women and also ensure the protection of the rights of women.
In Nigeria, the rights of women are clearly spelt out in the nation’s Constitution. These rights are in tandem with the ideals of humanism. Unfortunately, the rights and ideals seem to have remained paper tigers and mere theoretical postulations. Rather what one sees is that Nigerian women are systematically relegated to inferior positions and suffer many things including; violence in the home, sexual harassment at school and work places, sexual violence in conflict situations and during armed robbery attacks, rape and defilement, harsh and punitive widowhood rites, Female Genital Mutilation, forced childhood marriages in some places, disinheritance of wives and daughters, discrimination against the girl-child and other harmful traditional practices.
Notwithstanding these challenges, Nigerian government needs to be commended for some positive actions taken taken so far to arrest some of the problems the female folks are suffering from. These steps taken include; establishment of women development centres in the 36 States of Nigeria, establishment of a National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, adoption of the Trafficking in Person’s (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, adoption of a National Policy on HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and Female Genital Mutilation among others.
Inspite of these actions taken, the women still have challenges as there are some aspects of their rights that are yet to be covered by law. For instance, the patriarchal structure of the Nigerian society, given the women equal opportunity in occupying both the elective and appointed political positions in Nigeria and various discriminations meted against the women.
However, in Abia State, efforts are in top gear to ensure the rights of women and girls in the State are protected. Recently, the Vicar Hope Foundation, a non governmental organization, which, among other things advocates for the rights, protection and provision for the women, girl-child and vulnerable persons took the campaign for the women’s rights to the State House of Assembly, Abia State Police Command, and Abia State Judiciary respectively. In the campaign, the organization led by its founder, the Wife of the State Governor, Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu, appealed for the call to give greater impetus to gender issues to be heard and prioritized as it affects women, to promote the bill for equal rights and opportunity with men. Also advocated for were legislation against teenage pregnancy, child labour, child trafficking, baby factory and rape as well as other ills meted against women. The good news about this movement is that the State House of Assembly, Abia State Police Command, and Abia State Judiciary together assured the women of assistance in the protection of the rights of women and the girl-child.
It is pertinent to note that what the Nigeria women are looking for is not to wrestle power with their male counterparts or to become family heads, no, not at all. The women are trying to be recognized as a people whose duties and responsibilities are not restricted to kitchen and house hold chore but whose intellect could be brought to bear in policy making, policy formation and administration of the country at different levels. The women posses the Midas Touch to make positive differences in governance in Nigeria.
In the forth coming 2019 general elections, all political parties should consider given women equal opportunity to be elected, after all the bulk of the votes are cast by the women and their children. Why should these women who mobilize for votes and active participation in elections and campaigns be regarded as not fit for greater roles and assignments.
Time has come for the women to take the bull by the horn and stand to be recognized and given proper positions in the society.
Ubani Newman Ubani,
Senior Special Assistant to Governor,