The situation of women in Nigeria was a focus of many member and observer states of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, during the Universal Periodic Review of Nigeria on February 9, 2009.
At the interactive dialogue on presentation of Nigeria's human rights situation report, many countries raised concerns about the lack of domestication of CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and urged the government to fast track the process of domestication of CEDAW.
Specifically, Algeria, Brazil,, Mexico, Sweden, Austria, Indonesia, Slovenia, Norway, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Mauritius urged the Nigerian government to ensure speedy process of domestication of CEDAW, stating that this would serve as protection against many discriminatory practices and stereotypes against women.
In related contributions, many governments asked Nigeria to ensure the protection of women from gender based violence and harmful traditional practices. The governments of Ireland and Norway condemned S. 55 of the Penal Code that condones domestic violence. Other issues raised during the review concerning women's rights in Nigeria included the high rate of maternal mortality, trafficking in women and children, female genital mutilation, discriminatory practices against women, lack of access to justice to victims of gender based violence.
The government of Italy specifically asked the federal government to intensify efforts to eradicate harmful traditional practices by implementing the CEDAW Committee recommendations while the government of Austria requested for more information on measures to prevent violence against women and female genital mutilation.
Qatar asked the government to undertake further efforts in order to raise awareness among religious leaders and traditional dignitaries and involve them in the dissemination of a culture of human rights and in combating harmful traditional practices.
In its report, the Nigerian government had stated that there is no need for a special law on violence against women, stating that the Nigerian law has copious provisions to safeguard the rights of women against abuse and all forms of maltreatment.
The leader of the government delegation, Minster for foreign Affairs, Mr Ojo Madueke, informed the Council that Nigeria has signed the instrument of accession to 5 international instruments including; the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance; The Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; the Optional Protocol for the Convention against Torture.
Also ratified by Nigeria is the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the rights of Persons with Disability.
According to the Minster, Nigeria has taken notice of all the recommendations and the response to these recommendations will be included in the outcome report to be adopted by the Human Rights council at its eleventh session. The Universal Periodic Review is a new mechanism by the United Nations whereby the human rights situation of all member states of the UN is reviewed every four years.
We urge the government to start without delay the process of fulfilling all the commitments made at the review with a view to enhancing the promotion and protection of women's rights. In particular, the government should ensure the speedy passage of the bill on the Domestication of CEDAW and the provision of a better legal framework to protect women from violence, especially domestic violence and harmful traditional practices.
Itoro Eze-Anaba is the Managing Partner, Partnership for Justice