In a recent publication, a member of the Nigerian Senate and Committee Chairperson on Women and Youth, Senator Eme Ufot Ekaette, admitted that she has presented to the National Assembly for discussion and eventual ratification into law a Bill against indecent dressing in the country. She spoke to the press recently noting that indecent dressing amongst Nigerians has continued to promote all manner of vices in the society. She claims that the Bill she is proposing will address issues of indecency and immorality and that she aims for the preservation of cultural norms and values.
In a recent publication, a member of the Nigerian Senate and Committee Chairperson on Women and Youth, Senator Eme Ufot Ekaette, admitted that she has presented to the National Assembly for discussion and eventual ratification into law a Bill against indecent dressing in the country.
She spoke to the press recently noting that indecent dressing amongst Nigerians has continued to promote all manner of vices in the society. She claims that the Bill she is proposing will address issues of indecency and immorality and that she aims for the preservation of cultural norms and values. According to her, we are seeing a lot of moral decadence in the society today. See the Sun, editorial page, January 25th, 2008.
For the record, the Nigerian Feminists Forum is rather concerned that the Chairperson of such an important Committee in the Senate is trivialising women’s concerns and issues by laying emphasis on dress code while ignoring critical and life threatening issues affecting women which needs urgent and immediate attention. Nigeria has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world with infant mortality rate; at a total of 95.52 deaths/1,000 live births. With a breakdown of male: 102.44 deaths/1,000 live births and female: 88.38 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.) According to the National HIV/Syphilis sero-prevalence survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and the Futures Group Aim Model, there are 3,906,752 people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and 27,243 new cases every day.
Nigeria has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world, there are between 10,000 and 15,000 deaths out of 100,000 births annually. With limited and unaffordable medical facilities and maternal care services, women are at the receiving end due to the poor attention given to maternal and reproductive health concerns. The rampant issues on rape of infants and the aged women as well as other issues of sexual harassment of girls in primary, secondary and university environment, issues of female genital mutilation, violence against women in all it’s ramifications, girl-child marriages, child trafficking and its attendant problems, amongst others.This calls for a critical reflection from the highest legislature on the plight of women in Nigeria.
What substantial and commendable efforts has the Committee shown in protecting the rights of women vis a vis these vices? What collaborative effort has the Committee initiated in working with stakeholders in these areas?
What is the Committee doing to ensure the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seeing that Nigeria is far from achieving these goals?
A concerted effort by all including the Senate Committee on Women and Youth is required to develop clear and strategic responses to these critical and life threatening issues.
The Nigerian Feminists Forum is of the view that a Bill on indecent dressing with an attendant jail term of six months for a female offender (bearing in mind that there is a high violence record against female prisoners in our current prisons) is a gross violation on the fundamental human rights of citizens and is not the most effective way to curb moral decadence in the society. This is not the most urgent and critical social problem that confront women and young persons in Nigeria today. It is a ‘non- issue’ taking cognisance of the fact that women and young persons are worst affected by poverty and lack of sustainable development: a major threat to the right to life and a sustainable livelihood.
The Nigerian Feminists Forum calls on the Committee to engage itself with more concrete issues such as budgetary allocation advocacy to provide services and information for girls and women and their families to ensure quality health as defined by the World Health Organisation; repealing discriminatory laws against women, amend the legal provision on rape, ensure women’s access to safe reproductive health and the whole debate around women’s “choices”; access to economic credit to alleviate poverty; access to safe medical care; access to decision making positions on issues that directly affect their lives in their communities; research to provide the data much of which is already available, to understand what the most challenges of Nigerian girls’ and women are so that the committee can address these fatal challenges that women face and the list is endless.
The Nigerian Feminists Forum as a strategic partner, advocating for the liberation of women from gender based oppression will not hesitate in providing useful focal areas to be considered by the Committee in the interest of women when called upon to do so. We hereby call on all stakeholders and partners to begin the campaign to kick against such a Bill and its attendant jail term. Whose young women are we going to jail, are we speaking of our daughters, sisters, nieces and cousins. Whose CHILD do we want to jail? What happens to female prisoners in jail? The Government has questions to answer.
Iheoma Obibi Executive Director & ASHOKA Fellow