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Nigerian women occupied the National Assembly on Wednesday in protest against the refusal of lawmakers to grant women the right to confer citizenship on their non-Nigerian spouses.
The protest came a day after the House of Representatives were reported to have voted against proposals aimed at removing anti-women policies and laws seen in the Nigerian constitution.
“I am here because I am angry,” Nimisire Emitomo, a 25-year-old writer, told Al Jazeera. “When I saw the vote yesterday, the first thing that came to my mind is why do they hate us so much? They are literally saying we are second-class citizens.”
In the ongoing constitutional review, out of 68 proposed amendments, five bills moved to promote opportunities for women in political parties, governance and the society at large.
One bill sought to grant citizenship to foreign-born husbands of a Nigerian woman. Another sought to allocate 35 percent of political positions based on appointment to women, the third sought to create special seats for women in National and State Assemblies.
All five bills were opposed.
Using the #WomenOccupyNass hashtag, activists like Ms Emitomo and Chioma Agwuegbo led women to occupy the entrance of the National Assembly.
This is however not the first time the Nigerian senate has acted against the inclusion of pro-women policies in the constitution. In 2016, Senator Biodun Olujimi introduced a gender and equal opportunities bill. The bill, if passed, proposed better inheritance rights for daughters and the protection of widows.
The GEO bill however did not make it past the second reading in 2016 but was rejected–again with loud no’s–on the ground that the demands in the bill were antithetical to the religious beliefs and the place of women as seen in Christianity and Islam.
Although Mrs Olujimi did not stop pushing and the GEO bill was read for a first time in 2019, according to a report by Cable NG, when the bill was read again in December 2021, she was however made to stand down and again the bill was rejected on grounds of religion.