Nigerian lawmakers shot down a bill aimed at bolstering gender equality in the African country on March 15. The law was prevented from moving forward in the Nigerian Senate after the majority voted against it, citing religious opposition to the bill.
The bill sought to eliminate gender discrimination in the workplace, education and politics, reports Quartz. The law would also have formally banned violence against women.
“The elimination of gender stereotyping, prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes, or the roles for men and women” was a primary goal stated in the bill.
The bill faced opposition from an odd couple in Nigerian politics: Muslims and Christians with mutual religious concerns.
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Nigerian senate leader Ali Ndume voiced his opposition to the bill on religious grounds, reports The Cable. Ndume held that equal rights for husbands and wives could come into conflict with traditional religious doctrine.
“The church wedding says if you marry, the couple become one while the Igbo tradition says when you marry a wife, she becomes your property. So when issues come up after the marriage, you now wonder which one to take,” said Ndume.
“If you will marry you will marry; either Christian or Muslim.”
Progressive Nigerians condemned the senate’s rejection of the gender equality law that many viewed as necessary to move the country toward gender equality.
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“I am ashamed 2 be called a Nigerian. Pls tell Emmanuel Bwacha that the Bible is also not African so he [should] shut up. Ur a joke,” wrote Nigerian El-giva Stephen on Twitter.
“The most educated senate in Nigeria we’ve seen have ended up making the worst decisions I’ve seen. Always a new reason to disappoint us,” posted Nigerian That Andy on social media.
While the African nation has made strides in education and economic development, it lags in opportunities for women. Many jobs in Nigeria are open exclusively to male candidates, and sexual violence against women remains an issue.