2023: Female lawyers, activists to re-introduce gender responsive bills

Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in Nigeria says gender advocates will re-introduce gender responsive bills that were rejected by the National Assembly.

On March 1, both chambers of the federal parliament- the Senate and House of Representatives, voted against a bill providing for affirmative action for women in political parties’ administration.

The lawmakers also voted against the bill to create special seats for women in the national and state assemblies.

But the female lawyers and women’s rights activists are not backing down as they seek to re-negotiate the passage of the bills with the forthcoming elections in 2023.

Speaking at a dialogue for civil society organisations on gender responsive bills and the 2023 general elections, in Abuja, Lois Auta, said “women must restrategise at the grassroots, so they can compel politicians to accede to women rights bills.”

Mrs Auta, a gender rights advocate of international repute, recalled the obstacles she encountered while vying for a legislative seat in the Kaduna State recently.

She lamented her inability to secure a single vote at the primaries as she could not access delegates due to the overbearing influence of other male aspirants.

“We should work with vulnerable women who might threaten to boycott the polls,” Mrs Auta who lives with disability suggested.

She referenced Article 29 of the United Nations convention, which provides for the right to political participation by People Living With Disabilities (PLWD).

“It is time to take out attitudinal, institutional and infrastructural barriers that hinder PLWD from politics,” she said.

Similarly, Ene Ede, reminded participants at the event of provisions of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (2015).

Ms Ede, a women’s rights activist said Section 23 of the VAPP Act prohibits “political violence,” which is often perpetrated during Nigerian elections, especially against women voters.

The law provides, “a person who commits a political violence as defined under this Act relating to political violence commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding four years or to a fine nit exceeding N500,000 or both.”

Ms Ede suggested “changing the attitude of people is key to defeating money politics” in Nigeria.

She called media and CSOs collaboration in sensitising Nigerians on the provisions of the VAPP Act.

In her welcome remarks, FIDA’s National President, Amina Agbaje, said the rejection of the gender bills has “brought to the fore the need to consistently challenge the oppression that our patriarchal society imposes on women.”

Mrs Agbaje said there is need to “revamp and purge our democratic system of obscure bias.”

 The FIDA president explained that “the pivotal role of women’s rights organizations and civil society organizations in the clamour for the passage of these bills and the promotion of women and youth participation in politics,” necessitated the dialogue.

“FIDA Nigeria organized this dialogue to navigate the best approach/next steps in advancing the gender responsive bills rejected by the National Assembly towards ensuring more women and youth participation in the 2023 general elections.

“This dialogue was conceptualized with the intention of creating a standing observatory network of civil society organizations that will lead the discussions on the re-introduction of gender responsive bills before the national assembly,” she said.

 In April, a federal judge ordered the Nigerian government to implement the National Gender Policy (NGP) which provides for the allocation of 35 per cent of all appointments to women.

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