By Rukayat Moisemhe
The Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) has called for a review of the law governing marriage to reflect current global realities that are favourable to the womenfolk.
Mrs Gbemisola Oduntan, National Women Coordinator, NASME, made the call at the NASME 2021 International Women’s Day celebration with theme: “Women, Family Law and Property Rights” on Friday in Lagos.
Oduntan said the significance of the topic was very apt in the association’s choice to challenge the current obsolete nature of the law guiding marriage in the country.
She noted that the uniformity of the laws must cut across all states of the federation irrespective of tribe, ethnicity or culture.
“You struggle with a man for so many years and then due to some differences, you are sent out of the house without getting what is rightfully yours; this is quite disheartening.
“We have to know what we are entitled to, where we stand in those laws.
“They must be properly spelt out, and it must be uniform across board from Kwara to the any state in the East and even the Northern part of the country.
“A woman’s right should not be hinged on whether or not she was able to have a male child in the marriage, it should be hinged on the place of honour for our role in creating a better society.
“In asking for our equal rights which we are prepared for, we are not in competition with men, but, we are asking that our spaces right beside them, devoid of roadblocks and bottlenecks are preserved for us to succeed,” she said.
Dr Lola Akande, Lagos State Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, challenged the popular Beijing declaration for women’s political empowerment in 1995 to the tune of 35 per cent.
The declaration requires governments, international organisations and civil society groups to take a range of actions to enhance women’s political emancipation.
Akande, represented by Mrs Oluwakemi Ogunmodede, Director, Public Affairs of the Ministry, called for another declaration that would give women equal opportunities with the menfolk.
She urged for the removal of structural barriers to women’s economic empowerment including the right to own and inherit land and property and to access credit.
According to her, women with strong property and inheritance rights earn up to 3.8 times more income than those without those rights, and their individual savings are up to 35 per cent greater.
“Women with those rights are also up to eight times less likely to experience domestic violence.
“All of us in this hall can lend our voices to a new order in the sharing formula between women and our men counterparts in the political, economic and other areas of our engagements in our society.
“Basically, as a responsible and responsive government, Mr Governor with the Lagos State House of Assembly has a Ministry on Women Affairs .
“And equally established an Office of the Public Defender (OPD) and a Directorate for Citizens Rights respectively, under the states’ Ministry of Justice.
“The OPD offers free legal services to underprivileged women whose rights are threatened or infringed upon.
“Central to this is addressing the rights and needs of women living in rural and urban areas who must not be left behind in development progress.
“I urge our women to be aware of their rights and know the necessary steps for redress to take whenever their rights are infringed upon and must avail themselves of the services of these agencies,” she said.
In his remarks, Dr Adeyemi Agbelusi, Principal Partner, Berean Associates, also noted that the review of the Nigerian marital laws, which he said, was passed in 1970, codified in 2004, had not been reviewed since then.
Agbelusi urged women to be more inclined to emotional and cultural intelligence, to address the downsides of rights in the case of eventualities.
“We belong to a society where men are given a higher status than women but this is not so in the constitution; this means the discrimination is of the mind and is not allowed in the constitutional reality.
“However, there is need for a review of the law governing marriage as the last codification was in 2004 and does not address the current realities of time.
“The law, which has largely been discretionary, should give specific provisions to what people should get with regards to a divorce, widowhood or other forms of separation,” he said.
Also, Mrs Angela Emuwa, Chairman, Punch Newspaper, pushed for ease of access to loans and other financial services for women to remove a large number of them from below the poverty line.
“This discrimination against women, when they want to apply for loan, buy a property or rent a place must stop.
“What has the question, ‘where is your husband’ when applying for a loan or a house got to do with anything. This bias must be challenged.
“We must challenge the way things are done now to take our rightful position by getting equal space to contribute accordingly,” she said.
Prince Orimadedun Agboade, President, NASME, pledged the association’s support for women owned enterprises to engender improved national Gross Domestic Product output and sustainable economic development. (NAN)