A bill has been presented to the Senate to end an existing discrimination against female officers in the Nigerian Police Force.
The bill sponsored by Imo senator, Ezenwa Onyewuchi, seeks to amend the Police Act by expunging the gender-discriminatory provisions of regulations 122,123,124 and 127.
Regulation 122 restricts female police officers assigned to the General Duties Branch of the NPF to telephone, clerical and office orderly duties.
Regulation 124 mandates female police officers to apply for permission to marry, while the intending fiance will also be investigated for criminal records.
It also stipulates that a police woman who is single at the time of enlistment must spend three years in service before applying for permission to marry.
Regulation 127 prescribes discriminatory treatment of an unmarried police officer who becomes pregnant.
It is for these reasons that the lawmakers want those parts completely removed from the Act.
Leading the debate, Mr Onyewuchi noted the duties of the police which include prevention and detection of crime, apprehension of offenders, preservation of law and order, protection of life and property, among others.
However, an analysis of the Act and other policy documents governing the workings of the police reveal a preponderance of discriminatory regulations and workplace practices that reinforce gender discrimination, he said.
Aspects of discrimination
The lawmaker said the examination of gender issues covers various spheres of policy and practice, ranging from language, recruitment, training and posting; to marriage, pregnancy and childbearing.
He frowned at regulation 124 of the Act which demands that a policewoman who is desirous of marrying must first apply in writing to the commissioner of police in the state she is serving, requesting permission to marry and providing the name, address, and occupation of the person she intends to marry.
Permission will be granted for the marriage if the police consider the intended husband of good character and the woman police officer has served in the Force for a period of not less than three years.
127 - Pregnancy of unmarried women police
This part says an unmarried woman police officer who becomes pregnant shall be discharged from the police, and shall not be re-enlisted except with the approval of the Inspector-General.
The lawmaker said the above regulations of the Police Act were enacted in 1968, "at a time when the societal attitude towards women in the workplace was very different from what it is today."
This is more so as there is no rational justification for the imposition of these discriminatory provisions, since they do not in any manner promote the efficiency or discipline of the female' police officer, he said.
"And today, women occupy very senior roles in the police and have shown themselves to be just as competent and as disciplined as their male counterparts. Since a male police officer is not subjected to the same inhibitions, the current regulations are inconsistent.
"There is, therefore, a need to expunge the above regulations as it is not reasonably justifiable in a democratic State like Nigeria which has domesticated the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)," he said.
In his contribution, the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, reminded the Senate that a similar bill was brought in the sixth Senate but with regards to immigration or prisons.
He said the law can be amended so as to give dignity to the female folks and to also ensure that "what a man can do, a woman can also do it."
"It is very strange to find such provisions in the Act which is discriminatory in the sense that the male counterpart doesn't have the same restriction.
"A male counterpart can marry a criminal nobody will go to check whether the woman he wants to marry is a criminal or not. A man does not need to write to ask for permission to marry and the question of not being able to bear arms," he said.
For Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra), "if you want something to be done efficiently well, you look for a female. If you want something discussed and blabbed about then you look for men."
She expressed disappointment that the bill did not come from the police.
"It is not human to do what we are currently doing to these people. How can you say that a woman should take permission before she gets pregnant? but when it suits her boss, he will impregnate her. I want to conclude that I strongly support this particular bill."
Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi West) reminded the Senate that Nigeria is a democratic society and there should not be any provision that will make women be seen as second-class citizens.
He wondered why such provisions still exist in the Police Act.
"I am sure they must be the carryover of colonial masters provisions of the police," he said.
On his part, Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu) stressed the need to review the commission as a matter of urgency
The sections, he said, are sections that want to bring dichotomy between males and females.
"I can't imagine that anybody can make my daughter to look like a second class. My daughter is my first issue. I have always said this is number one. That nobody can deprive her of her position, a life given to her by God. She knows that all the males that are behind there cannot dictate. She is the head after myself and my wife. I feel burdened and worried that in this society we are still talking about."
After passage, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Police Affairs to report back in four weeks.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, thereafter, admonished the lawmakers to look into the laws of other services like Immigration and see if "there are also obnoxious provisions that are targeted against women."