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Action Alert

Nigeria: Protest the proposed law on ’indecent clothing’

Saturday 5 July 2008, by siawi

4/07/2008: BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights has issued an alert regarding the “Bill for an Act to Prohibit and Punish Public Nudity, Sexual Intimidation and Other Related Offences in Nigeria†.

This Bill unconstitutional in nature and seeking to legislate on morality has successfully passed the first and the second hearing on the floor of the Senate, according to the information received, on June 06, 2008. This is an attempt to set a subjective standard to determine personal dressing and to criminize and penalize offenders.

A critical analysis of the bill depicted gross unconstitutionality of its provisions and clearly discriminatory against women disregarding the universally recognized principles of the presumption of innocence. In addition to legislating on morality which is distinct from law, it provides an expansive definition of public nudity beyond its ordinary meaning, overlooking the diverse cultural and belief systems in Nigeria.

The Bill is contrary to constitutionally and internationally guaranteed rights which prohibit discrimination on basis of gender. It also gives wide powers to police officers who have access to limited resources to fight crime to have reasons to harass people and invade their personal life.

BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights expresses its deep concern about the ongoing insensibilities of the Nigerian Parliament on legislating on unconstitutionalities and channelling legislative efforts to trivialities in the face of pressing national development issues and human rights situations particularly women’s rights. BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights will also immediately alert the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Women’s human rights and the Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on Women’s Human Rights in Africa.

BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights further recalls that Nigeria as the incumbent President of the United Nations Human Rights Council has to set a standard in its obligatory role in the promotion of human rights commencing with the human rights situation of its citizens.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Please write to the authorities of the Nigerian National Assembly urging them to:

1. Conform to the constitution and all international and human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory.

2. Resist the move by Senator Ufot Eme Ekaette, Senate Committee Chairperson on Women and Youth, in compelling legislators to legislate on morality and imposition of a national law on dress code for the Nigeria citizens.

3. Reconsider their position and reject the enactment of such a complicated moral issues into law for the benefit of females and Nigeria as a whole.

4. Realize that Nigeria is a secular state and not founded on any religious affiliation as imposition of dress code connotes a strong affiliation to religious tenets and principles as a result compelling Nigerians to be bound by tenets favouring religious sects.

5. Legislate with the sense of urgency on thriving national development and human rights issues in relation to alleviating the plight of the masses and vulnerable in the society.

6. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the national constitution, international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Nigeria

SAMPLE LETTER

His Excellency, Senator Abubakar T. Ayuba
- National Assembly Complex
- Three Arms Zone
- P.M.B 141 Abuja
- Nigeria

[Date]

Subject: Nigerian Bill on ‘Indecent Dressing’

Dear Senator,

[I am] / [We are] concerned after having received news from women’s rights organisations in Nigeria of the ‘Bill for an Act to Prohibit and Punish Public Nudity, Sexual Intimidation and Other Related Offences’ (hereafter ‘Bill’) in Nigeria. We are particularly concerned with the way this Bill, which was initiated by Senator Ufot Eme Ekaette, has the potential to deny constitutional rights and is discriminatory against women. In addition to legislating on morality (which is distinct from law), this Bill provides an expansive definition of public nudity well beyond its ordinary meaning, thereby overlooking the diverse cultural and belief systems in Nigeria. The Bill is contrary to constitutionally and internationally guaranteed rights which prohibit discrimination on basis of gender. It also gives wide powers to police officers to invade individuals’ personal lives. We are troubled by the fact that this Bill has already successfully passed the first and second hearings of the floor of the Senate.

Not only does this Bill have the potential to police women’s bodies in Nigeria, its implementation will also mean that the police are free to intrude on women’s bodies on the pretext of upholding the provisions of this Bill – for instance checking with tape measures that articles of clothing are of the appropriate length as deemed by the Bill. While the provisions of the Bill demand that men be clothed from waist to knee, the requirement for women’s clothing is much stricter, almost to the point of absurdity and fetishizes female anatomy. We, along with women’s rights organisations in Nigeria, are also concerned that in the face of substantial development and human rights challenges facing Nigeria, the government prefers to spend precious time and resources on more trivial issues such as this Bill. Furthermore, it is a shocking misrepresentation to ignore corruption, abuse of power, lack of accountability and embezzlement as fundamentally indecent and immoral (the cumulative effects of which are a massive loss of a sense of decency, lives, quality of life and potentials in Nigeria), in order to focus on restricting women’s clothing including specifying to the inch how long sleeves must be.

[I am] / [We are] are particularly concerned with the way this unconstitutional and gender-discriminatory Bill seeks to regulate women’s bodies under the pretext of safeguarding ‘decency’ and ‘morality’ and preserving discriminatory traditions. We also take this opportunity to point out that as the incumbent President of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Nigeria has to set a standard in its obligatory role in the promotion of human rights commencing with the human rights situation of its citizens.

In light of the nature of this Bill and the way it will deny Nigerians, especially women, their basic rights, we urge you to:

1. Ensure that the constitution and all international and human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory are conformed with.

2. Resist the move by Senator Ufot Eme Ekaette, Senate Committee Chairperson on Women and Youth, in compelling legislators to legislate on morality and imposition of a national law on dress code for Nigerian citizens.

3. Reject the enactment of such complicated moral issues into law for the benefit of females and Nigeria as a whole.

4. Acknowledge that Nigeria is a secular state and not founded on any religious affiliation. The imposition of a dress code connotes a strong affiliation to religious tenets and principles, consequentially compelling Nigerians to be bound by the same.

5. Legislate with a sensitivity and priority regarding the challenges facing Nigerian national development and human rights issues in relation to alleviating the plight of the masses and vulnerable in the society.

6. Ensure that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the national constitution, international human rights standards and international instruments which have been ratified by Nigeria are upheld in all circumstances.

Yours Sincerely,


.

Addresses:

Senator David Mark
- National Assembly Complex
- Three Arms Zone
- P.M.B 141 Abuja
- Nigeria
- dmark nassnig.org

Senator Ike Ekweremadu
- National Assembly Complex
- Three Arms Zone
- P.M.B 141 Abuja
- Nigeria
- ikeekweremadu yahoo.com

Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba San
- National Assembly Complex
- Three Arms Zone
- P.M.B 141 Abuja
- Nigeria
- vndomegba nassnig.org
- Telephone: +234 8033141877, +234 8028383170

Senator Abubakar T. Ayuba
- Constituency Address:

No 2 Tanko Ayuba Road,
- Dirindaji, Sakaba LGA, Kebbi State
- Telephone: + 234 8030660943

Main address:

Senator Abubakar T. Ayuba
- National Assembly Complex
- Three Arms Zone
- P.M.B 141 Abuja
- Nigeria

Sen. Adefemi Kila
- National Assembly Complex
- Three Arms Zone
- P.M.B 141 Abuja
- Nigeria
- Telephone: 08037879791
- femi_kila2000 yahoo.com

Please also write to the embassies of Nigeria in your respective country. For example:

Nigerian Embassy in the United Kingdom
- High Commissioner
- Nigeria House
- 9 Northumberland Avenue
- London WC2N 5BX

Kindly inform BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights -(baobab baobabwomen.org) and WLUML (wluml wluml.org) of any action undertaken with regards to this appeal in your reply.

BACKGROUND

On January 14, 2008, Senator Ufot Eme Ekaette, Senate Committee Chairperson on Women and Youth informed the members of the public through the medium of the News Agency of Nigeria on her desire to ensure that the moral attitudes, cultural and traditional norms of the Nigerian Society are preserved. This according to her, is in a bid to address indecency and immorality. In February, the Senators truly began to legislate on this Bill and this Bill that has generated a lot of controversy from the public has passed its first and second hearing at the moment.

[Source: WLUML ]