Members of the Senate on Thursday debated the recommendations of the new version of a gender equality bill presented by the member representing Ekiti-South Senatorial District, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, where female senators urged their male counterparts to support the bill this time.
Olujimi, who led the debate on the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill, which passed the second reading on Thursday, said the bill sought to give effect to the provisions of Chapters Two and Four of the Constitution, dealing with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Human Rights.
She said the bill, which was read for the first time in the Senate on June 15, 2016, sought to promote equality, development and advancement of not only women but all Nigerians.
The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, while speaking on the bill, noted that it was critical “in view and experience of womenfolk in our society;” adding that whatever was needed to lift the womenfolk must be done.
He, however, asked that Section 4 of the bill be expunged, as it could clash with Section 42(1)(b) of the Constitution.
Ekweremadu said, “By way of direction, I will like to suggest that when this bill goes to the committee, we need to do proper interrogation to be sure that it is not in conflict with some of our existing legislations.
“I think the greatest problem I can see clearly now is the area of discrimination regarding Section 4 of the bill, which has made provision for specific percentage of women in employment and opportunities and also in political appointments.
“For me, these are the problems. If we place 35 per cent, for instance, for women (as affirmative action), that is discriminatory in a way and contrary to the provisions of Section 42 (1)(b).
“I think what we need to do is to look at the bill itself and make sure that such conflicts are eliminated at the time it is being processed by the committee, so that we will be able to leave the best of the bill that is consistent with our legislation.”
The Senate Whip, Prof. Olusola Adeyeye, disagreed with Ekweremadu, saying, “With all due respect to our Deputy Senate President, I totally disagree with his submission on the conflict with the Constitution. Ekweremadu is a lawyer and I am not, but the words are written in clear and simple English.”
Ekweremadu then interrupted him, saying, “Read it out!”
Adeyeye replied, “When you were talking, I did not interrupt you. It is not against our Constitution to allow women have 35 per cent affirmative action. We have the Federal Character. We should also have Gender Character.’”
Adeyeye said he was backing the bill on behalf of his two daughters, wife and mother, saying, “The worst form of discrimination is gender-based discrimination.”
Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos-Central) stated that parts of the Constitution in conflict with the bill should be amended “to accommodate women.”
She said, “I rise to support this bill and I also request that my colleagues should do same because we have come to a time in our nation and in our polity that we have to really compensate our women.
“And when we talk about Nigeria today, we cannot really undermine the contributions that women have made to this country. It will be a good place to start where we have to amend that part of the constitution to accommodate women.”
Olujimi noted that the bill had been “re-engineered” to consider all sides, saying, “Recall that this bill was exhaustively debated last session and was negated as a result of certain reasons that were raised in the course of the debate, which have been aptly resolved in this new bill.”Punch