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AN APPRAISAL OF THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK ON GENDER DISCRIMINATION OF WOMEN IN NIGERIAN POLITICS

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.0 Introduction

Globally, women constitute over half of the world’s population; they are involved in various ways to improve society and develop it; however, women are not properly represented in political positions. The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) of 2019 was able to find that there was an increase in the number of women in government as head of states from 12 to 21 over the past 20years[1] but this number is an outcry when compared to the population of women, those of age that could be active in politics. Pointing out the increase of just 9 women in a population of over millions is an anomaly and close to negligible but the increment is a positive outlook to the fact that women are fighting for positions in the government, although the number is insignificant but it is a better place than 20years ago.

There is a population of 19.5 million people in Nigeria with the current female population of 49.4%.[2]  This percentage is not mirrored in the political realms of the Nigerian community. Nigeria has never had an elected female Governor, Vice President, Senate President or even President; and Nigeria records very low members of female parliamentarians. However in Nigeria’s defense, the widest gap portrayed worldwide is the political gap[3]; Politics is seen as a male dominated affair and more than half of the countries in the world have never had a female leader. Under international standards, both women and men should participate fully in every aspect and at all levels of political processes.

This large discrepancy has prompted countries and women at large to campaign for gender equality. An example is the gender quota system being implemented worldwide. According to the Inter-parliamentary Union[4] of 2017, there's an improvement in representation of women in regional countries for example Nordic countries. The research was able to establish that percentage of women in parliament averages 41% and Arabs having the lowest of 17.4%. Though the study did not state the reason, but the surge is a welcome progress. Hegensen et al (2013) established that in Africa, Rwanda has the highest of women participation in politics of about 55% in 2013 while Nigeria has the lowest of 5.7% as of 2015. This percentage signifies the importance of this research in establishing the laid down issues associated with low participation of women in politics in Nigeria.

 Women assume key roles the private sphere. The public sphere is a group of many private spheres combined with public authority. It is a broader civil society. If women are detached from this space it will constitute a detriment to the broader society, because that touch of communal living will is lost. With this paper, I seek to find out whether women in Nigeria have a chance to become major political players in the future or if they are hampered by a force stronger than their will.

1.1 Background to the Study

Despite the achievements or successes of many Nigerian women, very few have been able to rise to the topmost position of leadership in the political realms. The best and brightest of Nigerian women in politics are mostly back peddled to positions such as Minster of Women Affairs and posts that do not bring out their true potentials. General Babangida (1992) the one time military president in Nigeria, noted in a conference, that “the compelling reasons why women must be integrated in the development process is their numerical strength, they are industrious and enterprising and they are good managers”[5]. Against this backdrop, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu in the regime of Ibrahim Babangida in 1988 indicated the intention of government to set up the Women commission to coordinate women affairs.

In recent times, development has made it possible for women to participate in those activities which were exclusively reserved for the men; however, society still negates them in doing some jobs with the feeling that as weaker beings, they can only be reckoned with after the men. This has greatly affected the participation of women in most developmental programs, politics and administration in particular. Participation of women in politics and administration has been of no significant value yet. Some duties which  concerns development, achievements, decision- making etc are left for men to handle, while lesser jobs like cooking, taking care of the family, typing and teaching are ascribed to women. This has been due to a lot of reasons that will further be explained in this paper.

In Nigeria, recent development has shown that women can perform as much as the male counterpart but society feels reluctant to assign duties of superior positions to women. There remains a large fraction of the women population who are still ignorant and unaware of their rights and the roles they could play in the society; however, attempts made to open up most of the rural areas where women are mostly based have been of tremendous effort. Thus, even women in the villages have become aware of the changes going on around them. To what extent have the Nigerian governments under the 4th Republic encouraged women to come out from their shell and join other women the world over in the full participation in politics and in administration?

1.2 Statement of the Problem

This paper addresses a major challenge women face in politics which allows only a few women rise to a position of power in politics. The major challenge facing women is discrimination from the society, the internal political parties, the communities, our customs, families and religion. Nigerian Politics is seen as a dirty game; therefore, the system paints women who wish to join the game of politics as unladylike because there are activities such as night meetings, violence in politics, corruption, and campaigns that are unladylike. These activities are now customs in politics that are male based. In Nigeria, does the cultural conditioning, ingrained prejudice against women, economic capacity of women, social standing, over powering culture, non- recognition of the skills and indispensable knowledge a women have to offer, work as a barrier to ensure that women do not actively participate in politics? If so, are there laws that punish discrimination and allow for the equal participation of women in Nigeria?

 Nations have adopted different approaches but have achieved the same results to ensure that women are equally represented in governance because women make up a major part of the society. Some of the needs of women such as education for the girl child, the ban of early marriage and increasing the age of sexual consent, can best be represented by fellow women. This is why there should be a legal requirement for parties to put a certain proportion of female candidates as members of the legislature and make sure that politics is favorable to all genders. If there is a dearth of women at the country’s highest level of decision making, due to an absence of laws that encourage the participation of women in politics, the growth of the next generation of girls will be deficient, stagnant and pitiable. The right that everyone should be treated equally under the law and no one is above or under the law, to discriminate even from politics.

1.3 Aims and Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to examine the laws put in place to stop discrimination and to highlight the legal factors that will boost women’s participation in politics. The specific objectives include:

  1. Defining key terms
  2. Evaluating the involvement of women in politics in Nigeria  
  3. Analyzing the legal framework set in place concerning gender discrimination.
  4. Outlining recommendations on how to promote women’s participation in the Nigerian political realm.

1.4 Significance of the Study

This study is significant for various reasons. First of all there is a great lacuna in modern day research on laws that aid women to garner representation in politics. Secondly, Nigerian women have been left without a voice; their needs, desires and wants are controlled first by their parents and male relations and then by their husbands. In a typical African household, women are expected to play an active role in the keeping and management of a home. They cook, clean, take care of the children, wait on their husbands and do all chores-imaginable to man. This role is demanded from most Nigerian women and to go against the norm is frowned upon. The average Nigerian woman has almost no say on matters that concern her or her future. It is no wonder why a handful of women have the courage to venture into the sphere of leadership. In Secondary Schools for example, the head boy is given tasks that are domineering in nature while the head girl is seen as fragile and dutiful instead of a woman of authority. This condition has brought about unfavorable laws for girls and women. The latest proof of this is that in Nigeria today, the age of consent for sexual relations is 13 years; making it possible for grown men to marry 13 years old girls and putting their lives at risk.

The discrimination in leadership positions has become a threat to women in Nigeria because as of today, the Legislative body in Nigeria(the National Assembly) is made up of 109 members amongst which , 7 are women leaving less than 15% of  women to make laws for a country which has a female population of  49% . This study is significant because it aims at highlighting the need for inclusiveness and participation of women in government.

  1. Scope and Limitations of the Study     

This study is limited to analyzing what gender discrimination is and the role it has played so far in Nigerian politics.  It will examine whether the current political system is favorable to the average Nigerian woman. The study will also evaluate whether the laws available to women to stop discrimination are effective and how far these laws have been implemented.

  1. Literature Review

For the purpose of this research work, the works of several authors will be reviewed.

The term “politics” is derived from Greek word polis which means city-state; this is why politics is used in reference to states.  Harold D. Laswell and Abraham Kaplan define political science as “the study of shaping and sharing of power”. For him, it comprised of family, property and other social institutions. The Marxist approach from the studies of the German Philosopher Karl Marx, views politics as:

A study of irreconcilable conflicts between the two classes “haves” (those who have private property or simply the rich) and the “have nots” (those who do not have any private property or simply the poor)

This resembles the Nigerian Society in which women stand for the “have nots”. They do not have the power; neither do they have authority over who accesses power. Maclosky (1968) defines political participation as “voluntary activities shared by members of a society in the selection of their rulers and directly or indirectly involve in the formation of public policies”. Also speaking, Weiner also conceives political participation in the following words “There are voluntary activities shared by members of a society in the selection of their rulers and directly or indirectly involve themselves in the formation of public policies”. This definition shows that women in Nigeria do not participate in politics because they are not involved majorly with formation of public policies.

Women  make up more than half  of  the  world’s  population  and  contribute  in  various ways  to society’s  development in general.  In  most  societies  women assume  five  key  roles:  producer, mother, community organizer, home-manager,  socio-cultural  and  political activists.  The last role had been engineered  by  women  movements  associated  to  historical gender  discrimination  and  inequality, before which,  gender  roles  was  divided between  the  female  and male  sexes.

Lester Milbrath (1965) segments these activities into three, namely: transitional activities, gladiatorial activities and spectator activities. Political activities that include canvassing for party funds, handling public or party offices, contesting at election, etc. are all classified under gladiatorial activities, while transitional activities include activities like making monetary contribution to political parties, attending political meetings or political rally etc. Spectator activities on the other hand includes political activities like wearing of party caps,badges,  emblèmes or uniforms, voting at elections, running errands for political leaders, etc.

Applying Milbrath’s classification of political participation and representation, the very best category of political participation is the gladiatorial activities. It has always favored the male gender in Nigeria since the day of our independence till now. Current statistics on gender representation in public offices, especially, at the very best deciding levels such as the offices of the president(head of state), the state governor and native government chairman(local government), shows that female representation was almost non-existent. Except on few occasions where women were elected as local government chairpersons, women has never in the history of Nigerian elections, been elected as chief executive, both at the national and state levels of government. Similarly, a brief summary of gender representation within the National Assembly during the 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 elections joined together, shows that women are incredibly under-represented by 5% in each of the two Houses of Assembly[6]. By the way, no woman had ever been elected for the office of the Senate President, while the female, Patricia Etteh, who was elected in 2007 as Speaker of the House of Representatives, was later impeached by a male dominated House before the end of her tenure. On the opposite hand, current statistics also shows that female gender in Nigeria, in most circumstances, and for many reasons, participate in politics at the smallest amount.

Apparently, women are mostly involved in campaign activities and rallies where caps, badges and the uniforms of respective political parties are freely displayed on them.

In this regard, Okoronkwo Chukwu (2013) during a study on the 2011 general elections in Nigeria refers to women “as active participants within the success of their male counterparts during elections”. Consistent with Kant (2001), men have always called on women as assistants so as to further their ambitions.

Babaginda (1992) confirmed women to be a part of any major developmental process and therefore the reason consistent with him is their numerical strength, they're industrious and enterprising and that they are good managers. Nowadays, women have shown more interest in politics and governance. They created such a lot awareness and have proved that they're not mere spectators in politics. In addition to Fumilayo Kuti, among the more prominent and influential of the leaders have been; Mabel Dere, Oveza and Margaret Ekpo, who have increasingly played roles in politics and governance sometime on their own. Nigerian women have thus far been showing what they're made of by not only been spectators on the political scene but by providing effective leadership and positive contribution to world socio-economic advancement.

Ekpe et al. (2014, p.15) examines gender discrimination and culture, and affirms that ‘cultural stereotype and abuse of traditional practices have created patriarchal societal structures dominated by men’. In essence, the subservience of women features its root in traditional cultural values that perceive women as subordinate to men. While traditional cultural values still influence societal perception of gender, the effect of traditional culture on gender issues is gradually eroding as a results of modernization and the influence of globalization on cultures across the world.

Momodu (2003) highlighted four perspectives that the issues of women's political participation and representation in politics and governance should be seen from. They are;

Access, participation, representation and transformation. Access to political institutions, participation (which includes control of power within such institutions), quantitative and qualitative representation and the end result will be social and political transformation in the polity.

Women's political empowerment can be enhanced when these four conditions are fulfilled[7]. Ogbonna (2009) stated that “some of the impediments to participating, contesting and winning elections in the country are money politics and power play that effectively scheme women out.”[8] This shows that money is a major factor in the game politics, along with the relative absence of financial empowerment of women. There have also been cases of much violence and assassinations, violent clashes at rallies and sheer thuggery which are not really welcomed in a women's world.

Asase (2003) noted that “new obstacle have teamed up with old ones to work against women in governance”. Sharia (as a religious and penal code) for instance is being practiced in Zamfara state and some other northern states, is a drawback to the anticipation of women in politics. In a state where women are not expected to mix with men in public it will be difficult to integrate them polity.

 Thus, Mrs. Josephine Anenih was cautious in her response to how Sharia world affect the involvement of Northern women in politics.

I have spoken to one or two of the governors practicing sharia, and they have assured me that it would not limit the participation of women (in governance) and that if they now say that because of sharia they will not present women candidates; we'll deal with that when we get there[9].

Finally, Obasanjo (1992) warned that making significant progress in a country’s development is next to impossible for any country that marginalizes women; because, women constitute large and important segments of the society.

1.7 Research Methodology

There are two main methods of research; doctrinal research and non-doctrinal research method. Doctrinal research engages, examines, appraises, critiques, evaluates, analyses and uses information from books and other written materials thereof as a basis for creating recommendation for deciding , enactment of laws, regulations and rules. Doctrinal research method involves the research into laws like the constitution, statutes, case laws, and international treaties. It is library-based. Non- Doctrinal Research Method features a wider scope because it diversifies into society. It is therefore considered as socio-legal research. It includes field work. This research method is often qualitative or quantitative and can be a part of large scale project.

For the aim of this research, the doctrinal research method is going to be employed because it will enable the researcher research into the laws applicable and various literatures. It will examine criticism, evaluate, and analyze this information for the aim of providing recommendations. Approaches to research include; historical research, analytical research, and inquiry amongst others and during this study we will make use of the historical and analytical research.

Historical Research Method of approach aims at inquiring into previous law so as to know the explanations behind the prevailing law and therefore the course of its evolution. It is unarguable that the past always explains events in a vivid way. It will not limit the research to law but researches will be made outside the bounds of law. It’ll record and evaluate the accomplishments of people, agencies or institutions and socio-legal factors. The Analytical Research on the other hand, aims at exploring the prevailing law. It engages the utilization of obtainable facts or information, and analyses them to form critical evaluation. The researcher has to engage the utilization of primary sources just like the statutory law(s) and secondary sources for example authors who have given opinions supported the statutory laws. This may help to analyze properly, draw conclusions and provide useful contributions to society.

In order to supply a solution to the main research question of the study, a desk research or library-based method was adopted. What this suggests is that primary and secondary sources of data were utilized for the aim of the research. The study relied on primary sources consisting of national laws and policies, jurisprudence of judicial and quasi-judicial bodies, commissions’ recommendations and relevant policy documents. The secondary sources consisted of educational publications, textbooks, published and unpublished thesis, journal articles, and preparatory works of legislation, conference and seminar papers.

1.8 Organizational Layout 

This research work is divided into five chapters, which includes:

Chapter One provides a General Introduction- Introduction, Background to the study, the Statement of the Problem, Aims and Objectives of the Study, Significance of the Study, Scope and Limitations of Study, Literature Review, Methodology of the Study and Organizational Layout.

Chapter Two gives Conceptual Clarification on key terms.

Chapter Three providesAn Analysis of women in Nigerian politics.

Chapter Four states theConstitutional and Legal Framework on Gender Discrimination in Nigeria.Chapter Five concludes this research work by highlighting the Summary of findings, giving Recommendations, a Conclusion and the Bibliography.


[1] Oloyede Oluyemi, ‘Monitoring Participation of Women in Politics in Nigeria’, National Bureau of Statistics 2016.

[2] World Bank Statistics, 2018

[3] World Economic Forum,2018

[4] The Inter-Parliamentary Union is a global permanent forum established in 1889 for political multilateral negotiations.

[5] Oloyede Oluyemi, ‘Monitoring Participation of Women in Politics in Nigeria’, National Bureau of Statistics 2016.

[6] Olu Awofeso &Temitayo Isaac, ‘Review on Gender and Political Participation in Nigeria: a Cultural Perspective.’ {2014} International Research Journals Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria. Vol 4(6) pp104-110

[7] A. A Ijiwole, & ors in ‘Role of Women in Political Participation in Nigeria’{2018} International Journal of Innovative Legal & Political Studies Vol6(2) 10-16

[8] Olanrewaju  ‘Gender Identity and Justice in Nigeria: An Appraisal of Women in Lagos State’{2018) The Journal of Social Encounters Vol.2 Iss1,69-80

[9] Osimen Goddy and ors, ‘Political Participation and Gender Inequality in Nigerian Fourth Republic’ in Global Journal of Political Science and Administration Vol. 6, No. 5, pp 22-38

AN APPRAISAL OF THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK ON GENDER DISCRIMINATION OF WOMEN IN NIGERIAN POLITICS

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