Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Issue of Gender Inequality in Nigeria

The issue of gender inequality has of recent come to the fore in the struggle for women’s empowerment and emancipation in Nigeria. Nigeria is a mainly patrilinear society where gender relations are based on the patriarchal point of view. The traditional role of a woman is that of a child bearer, home keeper, comforter,
and food provider for her husband, children and large pre supposes that the propagations of the male as the superior sex for purposes of inheritance, marriage and family relations, politics and participation and power relations including family and social decision making.

Traditional practices regarding widows and the female child lend weight to the marginalisation of women. Domestic violence is accepted as a way of calling erring women together. Social values which regard women as inferior to men are the critical factors in shaping behaviours to women.

Over the years and with civilization not much has changed. The capitalist economic system acquired during colonization equally adversely affected the status of women because women were disadvantaged in entering the changing economic market due to the dominant role of men in public affairs. The Victorian societal view of the woman as the home keeper reduced the influence of women and therefore their role in public affairs. This added to the traditional palmachial system further reduced the status of women in public decision making. It is common sense that those who make policies and make decisions will do what is more beneficial to them. The practice of early marriage household work and childbearing within the communities hindered their contribution on economic and political spheres. In many societies the woman carries out those activities which can be seen as an extension of their services in the home such as care for the sick (nursing), feeding and processing of food, petty trading, agriculture and sewing.

(1) Labour and employment – Women do not generally earn the same wages as men for the same work especially casual or unorganized labor which is where most women are employed. Those in public service are discriminated against in the area of maternity, sexual harassment and employment practices.
(2) Access to finances and credit – Most banks and finance homes do not give loans to women and most times women have to be guaranteed by men before they can access credit for economic activities. This results in more women becoming poorer, even those who are able to do some business for their economic enhancement.
(3) Politics and Participation – Women are not equipped to participate effectively in politics because of low esteem and inability to jump the hurdles set by the men. Such hurdles include rigging, money politics, thugery, membership of “boys clubs”. There exists only gender tokenism for women in politics. Women do not have the financial resources to compete in the high financial game of politics in Nigeria. They are therefore given positions which the men do not find lucrative or challenging enough. Thus politically women’s rights are denied because of poor representation at the levels where decisions and policies are made.
(4) Education and Health Care – Inadequate education and inadequate facilities for health care hinders women’s quest for equality. Unhealthy and uneducated women cannot produce healthy children or engage effectively in social activities. Available data shows high levels of maternal and infant mortality and life expectancy and women.
(5) Harmful Traditional Practices – Traditional practices like female genital mutilation, widowhood practices, male preference, domestic violence lend weight to discrimination against women. The heavy workload of women within the household and lack of house decision making powers contribute to deprive women of their rights and life. Information on family planning where they exist sometimes produce harmful side effects . Male preference leads to abuse and low self esteem for the female child even from birth and thus she does not develop her full potentials to enable her contribute effectively to the nation.
(6) Violence Against Women – Women are still victims of rape, sexual assault, Sexual harassment assault and battery, widowhood practices, forced labor, trafficking, incest, and other forms of gender assaults and abuses. Domestic violence is till regarded as a private affair requiring no legal or official intervention.
(7) Access to Justice – Women are politically, economically, socially, culturally, educationally, and legally disadvantaged. They cannot take advantage of facilities and opportunities available to them to achieve and enforce their human rights. They are mostly ignorant of their fundamental rights and freedoms. In many police stations, women are still not allowed to take people on bail.

These imbalances and inequalities in gender relations must be redressed if Nigeria will move forward to join the league of civilized nations as a country with respect for human rights. Nigeria is a signatory to the universal declaration of human rights and the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) both of which documents emphasizes and reminds nations of their duties to promote women’s rights, women’s education and improve the status of women. The Nigerian constitution, under its fundamental human rights provisions assures citizens of freedom from discrimination and inhuman and degrading treatment. This has not been so in practical terms and abuse of women’s rights continues unabated.

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