Nigerian lawmakers came under fire Monday from a leading human rights advocate over their rejection of plans to improve the rights of women.
Pansy Tlakula, chairwoman of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), criticized senators for failing to grasp the chance to improve women’s lives.
“Earlier this month, this bill which sought to give men and women equal rights in marriage, divorce and inheritance and raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 years was rejected by the Senate, comprised of 109 members of which seven are women,” she said in a statement issued at the opening session of an NGO forum in Banjul, Gambia.
“The bill has faced strong opposition because it was said to be incompatible with Nigerian cultural and religious beliefs. The bill would have been a milestone for women’s rights in Nigeria and an example for neighboring countries to follow.”
The forum is being held ahead of an ACHPR session in Banjul.
Commissioner Jamesina King told Anadolu Agency there was “so much more to do around women’s empowerment in the continent” and condemned the “unfortunate” case of women rights in Nigeria.
She called for greater “political will on the part of legislators in Africa”, citing Gambia’s recent ban on female genital mutilation and child marriage as positive steps.
The ACHPR is the continent’s leading human rights body and consists of 11 members elected by the African Union.