BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights' POSITION ON THE BILL FOR AN ACT TO PROHIBIT AND PUNISH PUBLIC NUDITY, SEXUAL INTIMIDATION AND OTHER RELATED OFFENCES IN NIGERIA 2007
Over the years, women have suffered untold hardship and disadvantages due to a lack of commitment of government and quality representation in bringing to the fore critical issues affecting them. In appreciating the concerns affecting women in Nigeria, such as the high maternal and infant mortality rate, food and water crisis, poor political representation, harmful traditional practices, domestic violence and unfriendly policies relating to their socio-economic and reproductive functions in the society, the proposed bill trivializes women’s demand for a just society founded on gender equality.
In light of the proposed bill, BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights (BAOBAB) has observed with great concern the following:
1. The wide discretionary power given to the Police authority under this bill.
2. The disproportionate level of discrimination the bill will promote to the disadvantage of women.
3. With the rising trend of violence in the society, human insecurity and domestic violence, the bill will create a road map leading to more violations of women’s rights.
4. The bill will impose a subjective moral code in Nigeria, a society that is not homogenous in its values and beliefs.
5. A continuing emphasis placed on presumed public nudity in this bill will lead to justification of criminal behaviours towards women from both state and non-state actors.
6. Considering the socio-economic classification of women based on education, religion, and status, the bill will indiscriminately affect the least empowered.
From a technical perspective, BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights (BAOBAB) also observed the following:
1. The ambiguity of certain terms in the bill such as “private part”, “reasonable suspicion”, “sexually seduce”, “indecent dressing” and “public nudity” among others are open to subjective interpretation.
2. The provision on the presumption of guilt as opposed to the presumption of innocence is contrary to natural justice.
3. The fine imposition is devoid of an economic consideration of the financial hardship faced by Nigerians, especially the most susceptible targets of the bill.
4. The issues of presumed public nudity and sexual intimidation are separate and distinct and should not be encompassed within the same bill.
Surprisingly, this bill unconstitutional in nature and seeking to legislate on morality has successfully passed the first and the second hearing on the floor of the Senate. At this point we plead with the distinguished Senators to consider the underlying detrimental effect of this bill and stop its final passage in to law.
BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights expresses its deep concern about the moral and human rights insensibilities of the proposed bill, its unconstitutionalities and the uneconomical channelling of legislative efforts to less important issues in the face of pressing national development and human rights concerns.
1. The Senate should out rightly resist any attempt in compelling Senators to legislate on morality and imposition of a national law on dress code for Nigerians.
2. Legislate with a sense of urgency on thriving national development and human rights issues in relation to alleviating the plight of the masses and vulnerable in the society.
3. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the national constitution, international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Nigeria, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Recalling, that Nigeria is the incumbent Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Councils, the country must set a standard in its obligatory role in the promotion of human rights commencing with the human rights situation of its citizens.
In the word of Martin Ihoeghian, President of the United Nations Human Rights Council, “the Council's main purpose is to uphold the dignity of the human person through the promotion and protection of human rights…failure to advance the aims and objectives of the Human Rights Council collectively by all nations, all peoples and all institutions will be a colossal failure of humanity to protect its own dignity and rights under the rule of law.”
The World is watching, Africa is expecting and Nigerians are appealing!