I decided to delay writing about the gender equality bill because I wanted to observe people’s reaction to the rejection of the bill and also because I was too disappointed and angry to form proper sentences. I’m not angry anymore but I’m still very disappointed. During my observations, I noticed a lot of women/girls actively try to distance themselves from being called “feminists” during all the social media debates. I wonder why/when feminism became a dirty thing in Nigeria. I identify as a feminist because I believe that women should have the same social, economic and political rights as men.
I know that there are a lot of negative stereotypes associated with feminism in Nigeria: people think feminist are “man-haters” and are always angry. Well, I hate men that uphold and support oppressive patriarchy like the senators that killed this bill (FYI, only 7 out of the 109 senators are women- we need more women in politics) and I get angry when I see/hear about some of the injustices women face in our society so I guess I conform to the stereotype (I think everybody should be angry when they witness injustice against anybody). People believe that feminists are angry for no reason. I am not angry because I enjoy being angry: I am angry because I see that women are second class citizens in Nigeria and I want to change that.
Some women also support oppressive patriarchy but I don’t hate them, I pity them. I feel sorry for the women who have internalised misogyny because they are victims of patriarchy: they believe so much in the superiority of men that they are willing to fight against other women to uphold this belief. The funny thing is that society doesn’t distinguish between feminist and non-feminist when it decides to oppress women: the company doesn’t ask a woman if she is a feminist or not before they decide to pay her less than a male co-worker at the same level. I don’t hate them because they are victims too and I’m more interested in fighting against the social conditioning that leads people to hold such strong beliefs that go against their self-interest. Another thing I noticed is that in Nigeria, the feminist argument has become about whether or not a woman will cook for a husband (talk about derailment). A woman can be a feminist and still cook for her household: those two things are NOT mutually exclusive.
I read the bill to find out what was so objectionable about it and for the life of me, I couldn’t find anything. Some people say it is the part about abortion that turned the predominately male senate off the bill. The bill explicitly stated that women should be given the right to terminate a pregnancy in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest and cases where the pregnancy endangers the mental/physical health of the mother and the life of the mother and foetus. The bill just asked that women have the right to abortion in very specific cases that may be traumatic to mother and child. I know this part of the bill is very sensitive because, we Nigerians, are quite a religious bunch but we should try to think of women as more than just vessels for bringing children into the world: think of the woman carrying the child and how the pregnancy will affect her. People say it was the part of abortion that was so objectionable but
nobody very few people talked about abortion, everyone was debating about the equal rights in marriage section (so was it really the abortion section that was the problem??? insert side-eye emoji)
Now let us get to the part that I saw most people commenting about on social media and talk shows. It was the part of the bill that proposed that women should have equal rights and responsibilities in marriage and at its dissolution (holds in breath while clutching my invisible pearls) What!!!!!!!!!!! Women want rights in their marriage and want to have a say in how their children are raised; We can’t have that (I’m being sarcastic btw). I saw a lot of women or people pretending to be women online (I like to give women the benefit of the doubt) saying the man is the head of the house and that women should submit to their husbands. You can submit to him as much as you want, no one is judging you for that (welllllll, I may judge you a little bit but you’re probably definitely judging me for being a feminist so… 50-50 I guess).
You’ve agreed and accepted the man as the head of YOUR household but what’s that got to do me with me though????? (¯\_(ツ)_/¯) Just because several women have accepted their husbands as the head of the household, doesn’t mean all women should/ have to do the same: different strokes for different folks. If your husband is your superior in your house, that doesn’t mean that I have to accept him earning more than me in the workplace when we are on the same level and do the same job or that widows shouldn’t be protected from family members trying to steal the husband’s property (we all know how often this happens) or that girls shouldn’t be protected from genital mutilation and all other barbaric societal practices that the bill aimed to address.
I watched “TALK TALK” on Wazobia TV and one of the hosts objected to the bill because (wait for it) it meant she would have to make a 50% contribution to the finances of the household. I think smoke actually came out of my nose and ears when she made that comment: I was so angry. What the hell???, the bill DID NOT SAY anything about women making a 50% contribution to the finances of the household. If families decide that the man should be the head of the family and do all that comes with that and that the wife should do all the traditional wifely duties, the bill DOESN’T prevent that from happening. No one is stopping women from submitting to their husbands, the bill just recognised that not all women want to do so and it wanted to put laws in place to protect their rights. For crying out loud, the bill asked that women have a say in the number and spacing of their children, how could anyone oppose this???? (insert confused and sad face emojis).
I feel the women that opposed this bill are privileged because they already have some kind of say in how their family works so they do not see the need for laws to protect that right. But we need to understand that not all women are in that position, some women will never see their children again if they divorce their husbands, some women have no kind of say on the number and spacing of their children. Laws are meant to protect everyone, not just a select few.
You know what, I choose to believe that the people that supported the rejection of the bill did not read the entire bill: then their opposition to the bill will make sense (actually, it won’t make sense but it’ll be more acceptable to me). I choose to believe that because the thought that people read and understood the bill but still rejected it makes me too sad.