n Gender Questions - Gender issues and the Nigerian constitution : a ray of light, or twilight on the horizon?




The consensus in modern democracies is that constitutions should be based on inclusivity. However, the Nigerian constitution is replete with provisions which are interpreted to either deny the realities of women or outright discriminate against them. This article examines the intersections of gender, law and the Nigerian constitution. It argues that women have played a minimal role in the history of constitution making. The inclusion and interpretation of equality; non-discrimination; negative vs. positive rights and gender quotas are biased. The article posits that a conscious effort to give women presence in the polity started in the Nigerian Fourth Republic. The National Gender Policy mainstreamed gender to increase the participation of women in politics and hoisted favourable economic strategies. In addition, in 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated a national conference, where far-reaching resolutions were made on gender issues. Consequently, some of the socio-economic rights have been made justiciable and imputed in the latest Constitutional Amendments Bill. An impasse between the president and the National Assembly led to his refusal to assent. The tenure of the government has ended and the resolutions of the conference may not be revisited for some time to come. In contrast to the earlier position, the Nigerian Supreme Court, in two notable decisions, strongly condemned discriminatory inheritance customary practices. The author's finding is that constitutional amendments and a continuous active stance by the courts, amongst others, offer leeways for women's development.


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