Human rights for the Nigerian woman and girl child

by Sandra Eguagie
Daily Independent March 26, 2015
Against the backdrop of recent celebration of Mother’s Day, Sandra Eguagie Programme Assistant Officer on Environment for Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) wants violence against women and girl-child be addressed by the Nigerian government…

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, religion, educational background, language or any other status. Gender equality and support to women and the girl child is not kindness done to women but it is beneficial to the society.
Nigerians joined some countries to celebrate Mother’s day on the 15th of March, 2015. It was a day to show appreciation to mothers. Many people bought different gifts for their mothers and others sent lovely text messages while others just acknowledged the day. Even on the social media, in the church and almost everywhere it was on the lips of many Nigerians: ‘Happy mother’s Day!

Now that the celebration is over, what next? The question that comes to mind is: what are we celebrating or what should we be celebrating? Is it just our mothers or womanhood that should be celebrating?

There have been all forms of violence against women and the girl child in our society ranging from sexual harassments, female genital mutilation, early marriage, trafficking, physical assault, acid attack, wife beating, molestation and other negative cultural practices against the female folks. So many activists, civil society groups, government, stakeholders and individuals have written articles to condemn these acts and also offer solutions on the way forward.

Today I raise my voice against the gradual attempt to reduce the value and dignity of women through the entertainment industry and also for the illiterates, poor and millions of women in our society who have died as a result of different forms of violence and also for those that have suffered one form of psychological violence as a result of their gender.

It is now a common trend in our entertainment industry, to see women and girls dancing half-naked for the entertainment of their audience. The Nigerian society is gradually degrading the dignity of women, and widening the gap of gender inequality indirectly. In an attempt to make more money and fame, you see even educated artists encouraging and featuring young girls to dance half-naked while their male counterparts cover their bodies. It is disgusting and disheartening, and this is modern day abuse against women. It should not be allowed to continue. The most annoying part is the so-called Home video (Nollyhood); the Nigeria movie is indirectly encouraging some forms of violence against women and this includes physical, sexual, psychological and other forms of abuse. You can watch five Nigeria movies and four will feature one form of violence against women such as women or the girl child being raped, having witchcraft, possessed of evil spirits, physically assaulted in the community or school, subjected to psychological torture and degraded as second class citizens, not allowed to speak and all these are seen as normal in a typical Nigerian society as portrayed by the movie producers and directors. Although they show some form of punishment for culprits, the issue and the message is that violence against women should not be portrayed as what must happen in the society. It is abnormal, and we should not encourage our younger generation to continue the trend, because violence begets violence. Women and girls should be celebrated in a positive way.

Comedians should crack jokes without referring to women and girls as object of ridicule in an attempt to make people laugh or to make money. Gender equality ensures the same rights to both men and women. We should focus on a better way to make the society habitable for all whether male or female. The governing board of the entertainment industry in Nigeria should educate movie producers, directors, artists and all other stakeholders in the industry that they can actually entertain Nigerians and other nationals of other country without reducing the self-worth and human rights of women and the girl child in this country. They should not be among those encouraging violence against women.

Also violence against women has subjected many Nigerian women to a life of depression, exploitation and abuse. A lot of them merely live from day to day, and neither have control over their destiny, nor are able to explore and develop their personal and social potentials. Many of these women are the uneducated, poor, low income earners and rural women in our society. They are the ones that sacrifice their lives as a result of taking up the whole responsibility of carrying the financial burden of the family. There is a saying that when a child is good or is doing well in the society, it is the father’s child but when the child is wayward it is the mother’s child. And so because of this adage, many women have gone out of their way to do so many odds job to provide for the family while so many of their male counterparts are unconcerned and relaxed, leaving the whole financial burden on the woman.

First, parents and community leaders must imbibe good cultural practices among their children in the family and in the community. Culture is dynamic, so our culture should be able to promote peaceful environment for all. Parents and community leaders should be able to punish any form of violence against women and the girl child. The girl child should be encouraged to go to school and should not be the only one chosen to be absent from school to support the family income by skipping school to sell as a way of providing income while the male child is allow to go to school just because he is a male.

Second, government should implement the principles of human rights at all levels of our educational system, irrespective of the sex involved; they should enjoy equal human rights. When children are taught the right thing at a very tender age at home and in the school, it becomes a habit and they grow up with it. Then the male child will see the female child as having and enjoying equal rights like himself and there will be no need advocating for gender equality. This is not all about women empowerment programme, but ensuring the sustenance of human rights to all. The dynamism of culture is important, so the socio- cultural practices that discriminate against women and the girl child and deny them equal access to education, credit, property, wealth and also relegates women to be second class citizens is no longer relevant in our society. It must be discarded if we must stop violence.

Lastly, as we celebrate women and the girl child, we should remember to promote human rights and also eliminate all forms of sexual, physical, emotional and cultural violence against women and the girl child. Violence against women does not show that the men are above the women, but it reveals how the human society has been relegated to the “animal kingdom” where anything goes. Violence against women and the girl child is violence to all.

Women and girls should be treated humanely and be able to live in the home, school, community, society and move freely without fear of being assaulted sexually, physically, emotionally and otherwise. I say again gender equality is not kindness done to women and the girl child but it is beneficial, good, better to the society and for the peace and progress of all.