Government of Ekiti State, Nigeria.

Erelu Bisi Fayemi Commends Ekiti Assembly, As Equal Opportunities Bill Becomes Law

November 8, 2013

L-R: Ekiti State Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism, Chief Ronke Okusanya; her Women Affairs, Social Development and Gender Empowerment counterpart, Mrs. Fola Richie-Adewusi; and Wife of the Governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, during a public hearing on the floor of the House on Equal opportunities Bill initiated by the governor's wife, on Wednesday

Ekiti State House of Assembly has passed the Equal Opportunities Bill into Law to protect the economic and social rights of the physically-challenged, mentally-retarded and other vulnerable groups in the state.

Among its many provisions, the Bill prescribes two-year jail term for any person convicted of sexually abusing a mentally-retarded or physically-challenged person, without an option of fine.

Speaker of the House, Dr. Adewale Omirin, presided over the plenary session when the Bill was passed into Law by overwhelming voice vote of ayes, on Thursday.

The passage of the bill followed a public hearing conducted by the Assembly on Wednesday, when the input of stakeholders and members of the public were collated.

The EOB is an executive bill initiated by the Wife of the Governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, to provide equal opportunities for all persons and to prohibit all forms of gender-based discriminations and inequalities in public and private institutions.

The Bill had passed through the third reading after it was presented to the House by the Chairperson of the House Committee on Women Affairs, Social Development and Gender Empowerment, Hon. Ayo Fatunbi, on Thursday.

The bill, which now awaits the assent of the Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, is poised to protect the economic and social rights of widows, widowers and elderly citizens of the state.

For instance, the EOB recognizes the right of a woman to inherit properties of her parents and deceased husband and to continue to live in their matrimonial home provided she maintains her widowhood.

Special protection was also accorded the elderly and people with disabilities against sexual abuse and discrimination on age and indignity.

“In case of communal land, a widow with or without a male child shall have equal access to communal farming lands for agricultural purposes only.

“In case of separation, divorce or annulment of marriage, women and men shall have equal/mutual responsibilities towards their children. In any case, the best interest of the children shall be given paramount priority,” it provides.

In recognition of rights of women to protect their reproductive health, the bill endorses “medical termination” of any pregnancy arising from rape, incest and where it endangers the health of the mother or an unmarried girl-child on the advice of medical experts.

When fully operational, discrimination in the sphere of political and public life, education, healthcare, employment, urban or rural dwelling and marital status will be eliminated.

In line with the affirmative action, the bill provides for the reservation of a minimum of 35 per cent of political offices and appointments, as well as employment, credit facility and other economic sphere in public or private sector for women.

The EOB provides that, “Any person, authority, body or institution who fails in the duty imposed on him or her under this Law has committed an offence and shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding two months or a fine of N20,000 or both as first offender.

“On any subsequent convictions, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten months or a fine not exceeding N50,000 or both.

“Any person that sexually abuses a mentally or physically disabled person is guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for two years.”

To give the Bill the needed impetus, it proposes the establishment of Ekiti State Equal Opportunities Commission, and empowered the governor to appoint the members, except ex-officio members.

Members of the commission are expected to be drawn from the organized private sector, civil society organizations, media, traditional institution, religious bodies, among others.

Erelu Bisi Fayemi had led women groups to the floor of the Assembly for the public hearing, when certain clauses were amended in deference to inputs by lawmakers and members of the public, on Wednesday.

The stakeholders included market women, women in politics, representatives of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), National association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) and National Council of Women’s Societies (NCWS).

Erelu Bisi Fayemi commended Ekiti lawmakers as the most progressive and forward-looking in the country.

She said the new legislation would place equal value on all the citizens of the state, irrespective of gender, social status or mental and physical well-being.

The First Lady frowned on the age-old patriarchy, which regards women as second class citizens, adding that human beings were created equally and should have equal opportunities.

She said, “Despite the fact that we have laws that guide us as citizens, women often come up as second class citizens with the application, practice and the way we experience these laws.

“The Bill will strengthen existing legislations on widowhood rights, female genital mutilation, Child Rights and Gender-Based Violence Prohibition.

“Never again should parents celebrate the birth of a baby girl with chicken and a baby boy with ram. The practice places chicken value on girls. Families should celebrate the birth of a boy or girl without any form of discrimination.”

She used the opportunities to call on leaders to ensure that they make positive impact on the lives of citizens and to create an enabling environment for them to thrive.

Above all, she said that the Bill would serve as legacy for the current legislative Assembly.

The House Committee chairperson, Fatunbi, reiterated that the bill was not meant to encourage women to deviate from their traditional roles in the society or for men to shirk their marital obligations.

In her remarks, the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Social Development and Gender Empowerment, Mrs Fola Richie-Adewusi, said that the Bill would provide a level playing ground for all to thrive as legal citizens of the state.

Among those who spoke in favour of the Bill at the hearing were the President of NCWS, Mrs. Nike Obatayo; State FIDA Chairperson, Mrs. Rita Ilevbare; NAWOJ Chairperson, Mrs. Yomi Osuntokun; and Executive Director, New Initiative for Social Development, Mr. Biodun Oyeleye.

It will be recalled that the state House of Assembly passed the Gender-Based Violence Prohibition bill, also initiated by the governor’s wife, into law about two years ago.

Last modified: November 8, 2013

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