Education

Is the Nigerian Constitution Sexist? – Oyinlola Olufunke Adeboyin

A tweet, where a man lamented the lacuna in the Nigerian Constitution which prevents him from attaining Nigerian  citizenship by virtue of his marriage to his Nigerian wife, has gone viral. A post which some considered hilarious, others considered a matter of great concern and some others a waste of time.

In the western world, a man or woman can attain citizenship of a particular country by virtue of their marriage to citizens of that country. A reason why many Africans marry citizens of some countries where they are domiciled, I learnt.

Section 25 to 32 of the Nigerian Constitution provides for attainment of citizenship in Nigeria.

Section 26 provides for citizenship by registration..

It is however noteworthy that (2) (a) provides for citizenship by marriage in relation only to a foreign woman who marries a Nigerian man.

There is no provision for a foreign man who marries a Nigerian woman.

This brings about the question “Is the Nigerian Constitution sexist?

Does the constitution belittle the influence of a woman this much? Is she any less of a person that her man can’t attain citizenship of her country by virtue of the fact that he is married to her, a citizen of that country?

To what level exactly have women been sidelined in Nigeria, Africa, the world as a whole?

Look at this, _”I attain citizenship of a country because I am married to a foreign man but he can’t attain citizenship of my country by virtue of his marriage to me.”_

While this is not a war of sexes, it is an effort to help women enjoy privileges of their citizenship in the same proportion as their male counterparts.

I have come to an understanding, equality does not hurt anyone, rather it helps all. A society where she is free, where there’s inclusion for her, where her rights are upheld, where her voice is heard, where her leadership and intelligence are acknowledged, where she is given the same privileges as he, is a society that will progress quickly.

I sincerely acknowledge the bravery of the man who spoke out, though for himself, he has called the attention of a lot of Nigerians to this unpopular part of our law that subjugates women.

Yes, a lot of people were ignorant of this until the aggrieved man spoke out.

Now I’m thinking,” what can we do to remedy this situation?”

A twitter user, while commenting on this matter, called attention to the presence of female lawmakers in our legislative houses. He believes these women are in a good position to push for an amendment in that part of the constitution. Well, I think so too.

The question, however, is, are they aware of this faulty legislation or are they just content with it?

By all means, no one should be content with any law or custom that subjugates or restricts the rights and freedom of another human being. These things are partially hacked snakes, they are poisonous still and it concerns all, both the urban and rural dwellers as my people would say. It hits close to home. Someday, it might be your daughter, sister, brother, friend that will be affected by these faulty legislations.

Even the constitution is conscious of the shortcomings in some of its own provisions. Denying women a privilege that’s available to men offends/ contravenes  section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which makes provision for non-discrimination and against anyone because of the circumstances of their birth, viz:

_”42. (1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:_

_(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or_

_(b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions._

_(2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth._

A male twitter user opined that Nigerian women have no business marrying foreign men…it was supposed to be a joke but I wondered.

If a lot of people think this way, then we have a big problem on our hands…I believe a woman has the right to marry whoever she deems fit.

She has the same rights as a man. Please note that the law says ‘Fundamental Human Rights’, Humans are males and females and all humans, though with different strengths, features, origins, cultures, colors, are equal.

Therefore I’d say the solution is not far fetched, There is an urgent need for amendment of the Nigerian Constitution to accommodate the rights of women in equal proportion as the opposite sex’s. It might not be an easy feat as many fights for equality and the rights of women aren’t, especially in a patriarchal society like ours but women are speaking up, more women should, more men should. If the law and everyone will acknowledge the importance of women in our societal development and progress, I believe we can arrive at a good destination faster than we thought possible.

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Adewuyi Roseline is passionate about the girl child. Growing up, she had a lot of questions about her identity. She is on the journey to ensure that young girls rise above limitations, smash stereotypes in their communities.

2 Comments

  • Lekan M. Bello

    Good one, Funke.

    The drafters of our laws were/are products of a heavily patrilineal society. Reorienting everyone including women who grew up with this backward mindset will help greatly.

    People of the “developed world” were once like this and that is evident in the religions they handed to us. If their own societies can change, ours too can.

    We will get there one day as long as we don’t keep quiet or leave the struggle to women alone.

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