Reps consider bill to end, penalise degrading widowhood practices in Nigeria – Premium Times
House of Representatives A bill to amend the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act scaled second reading at the House of Representatives on Thursday. It seeks to prohibit all forms of repressive and degrading widowhood practices, provide remedies for victims and penalise offenders. The legislation sponsored by Sergius Ogun (PDP, Edo) and Adejoro Adeogun (APC, Ondo), proposes to amend six sections of the Act to make provisions to safeguard widows from violent and evil customary practices, denial of property rights, rape, forced marriages and all other dehumanising acts that undermine the dignity of the widow. The legislation comes on the heels of outcry – majorly from widows who have been victims of inhumane treatments from extended family members after the death of their husbands. In many cultures across Nigeria, many widows are compelled to forfeit their late husband’s properties, custody of their children, marry one of the late husband’s siblings, among others. These are some of the practices that the bill seeks to penalise when passed. Leading the debate, Mr Adeogun said some major objectives of the bill are to define what constitutes harmful and degrading widowhood practices, the rights of widows under the Act, prescribe penalties for infractions against the Act and reserve the 23rd day of May of every year as a National Day for the Prohibition of Discrimination Against Widows, Women and Girls – to help bring the problem of discrimination against widows to national attention The lawmaker said while death is inevitable, widows in some parts of Nigeria are made to pay heavy penalties for the painful departure of husbands that they loved and shared their lives with. “They are stigmatised, denied access to properties and in some cases denied access to their own children for reasons that have no place under any Nigerian law. “Widowhood is not by choice. So why does our society criminalise the unfortunate incident of widowhood? Why are widows denied the right to mourn in peace? Why is the trauma of their loss met with more trauma rather than solace?” he said. He added that the bill, when passed, would be recorded in history as one of the most important legislation passed by the ninth assembly. ** A new Section 15 to read: “15. (1) A person who subjects a widow to harmful widowhood practices commits an offence and is liable on conviction – (a) to imprisonment for a term of seven years without any option of fine; and (b) any other compensation to the widow as the court may deem necessary in the circumstance. (2) A person who attempts to inflict any harmful widowhood practice provided under subsection (1), commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of three years or a fine of N1,000,000 or both. (3) A person who incite, aids, abets or counsels another to commit an offence under subsection (1), commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of three years or a fine of N1,000,000 or both.
(4) A person who receives or assists another who, to his or her knowledge has committed an offence under subsection (1), is an accessory after the fact and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not more than two years or a fine not more than N1,000,000 or both.” ** Insertion of Section 38A and 38B to read: “38A (1) In addition to the rights guaranteed under the Constitution or any other international human rights instrument to which Nigeria is a signatory, a widow shall have the right to – (a) continue to live in the matrimonial home after the death of her husband and where she remarries, she shall retain the matrimonial home if it belongs to her or she inherited it and shall not be forcefully evicted; (b) inherit from the property of her late husband or in-laws where the property is jointly owned; (c) enter a marriage of her own choice; and (d) own and administer property including the right to enter into contract and access credit without being accountable to her in-laws. (2) A widow shall be vested with the guardianship of a child if she is the mother of the child. (3) A person shall not, under any custom, practice or testator to a will, transfer guardianship of a child of a widow to another person other than the widow. (4) The provisions of subsections (2) and (3) shall not apply where it is proved that – (a) the widow is of unsound mind and body; or
(b) vesting guardianship of a child with the widow would be detrimental to the interests and welfare of the child. 38B. The 23rd day of May every year is reserved as a National Day for the Prohibition of discrimination against widows, women and girls.” The bill was referred to the House Committee on Women Affairs for public hearing and further legislative work. Donate TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401… QueenEsther Iroanusi covers the National Assembly for PREMIUM TIMES. She is a 2018 Female Reporters Leadership Programme fellow of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism. She has a degree in French. She can be reached on Twitter @QueenExtha
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