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Every Woman Needs

SheHUB Nigeria: The Rights and Privileges Nigerian Women do not have



Photo source: GOV.UK.

In recent times, there has been a growing narrative that the fight for gender equality is unnecessary, as women and girls already have the rights they need. The rhetorics become louder when institutions and governmental bodies attempt to engage in affirmative actions and gender-inclusive programmes.

On Feb 6, 2023, UNICAF released a memo on their intention to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science with $1 million worth of scholarships for girls. However, this quickly spirals criticism from many Nigerians who accuse them of being biased by creating an opportunity exclusively focused on girls. Also, many Nigerians question why organisations like UNESCO have gender-focused opportunities for girls.

However, studies carried out by UNESCO reveal that girls are more likely to be neither in education, employment or training, with 67.5 per cent of women and girls between the ages of 15 to 24 years old falling into this category.

Source: UNESCO

Also, UNICEF reports that girls spend 160 million more hours doing household chores than boys. In many cases, girls are expected to combine these activities with their education, often resulting in their absence or drop out of school. 

In several Nigerian states, girls are also expected to have 13 times higher cut-off marks than boys before they can access education. For instance, in Yobe State, boys can score two over 400 in qualifying exams. In contrast, girls must score at least 27 over 400 in the same exam. These unjust pass marks between girls and boys are also present in states like Taraba, Kebbi, and Zamfara.

These, among other ways women and girls are exempted from opportunities, is why gender-focused programmes exist.

What Rights Do Women Not Have?

Women as a group are faced with numerous challenges due to no fault of their own except being born female. Many times, they are exempt from the right to live without discrimination, they face unfair laws that favour their male counterparts over them, and they witness social and cultural privileges accorded to only their male counterparts. Some of the rights Nigerian women and girls do not have are highlighted below:

Right to be employed and promoted without bias: An ILO study on youth employment shows that, in general, women have more difficulties finding employment than men, and even when they have higher education levels, women face labour market discrimination, which favours hiring and promoting men over women. 

Right to live without violence: Many women and girls still experience harmful cultural practices such as selective abortion and female genital mutilation. Rape, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and femicide carried out against them by their male counterparts is still rife.

Right to be recognised in their nation’s constitution: The way Nigeria’s constitution is written does not acknowledge women as equal citizens. The primary pronoun of the 1999 constitution is “he,” which is male-focused as compared to “their/them,” which is gender neutral or “his/her,” which is gender balanced. The pronoun “He” appears in the Constitution about 235 times, while the word woman was used only twice.

Right to equal laws: In the Nigerian constitution, an assault on a man is considered a more serious offence and carries a higher punishment than an assault on a woman. 

Under Section 353, “[a]ny person who unlawfully and indecently assaults any male person is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years.” In contrast, under Section 360, “[a]ny person who unlawfully and indecently assaults a woman or girl is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.”

Right to confer citizenship on their spouse: In Nigeria, only men can confer citizenship to their foreign spouse. A woman cannot do the same. If a man marries a foreigner, the foreigner becomes a Nigerian. However, if a woman marries a foreigner, the person does not become a Nigerian. This discrimination is reflected in Section 26 (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution.

Right to not be raped by their husbands: The Nigerian constitution gives men the legal right to rape their wives. Section 182 of the Penal Code provides states, “sexual intercourse by a man with his wife is not rape if she has attained puberty.”

Right to justly prosecute their rapist: In Nigeria, not only do rapists rarely get convicted, with the country only having 32 rape convictions between 2019 and 2020, the constitution requires that before a rapist can be prosecuted for violating a minor, there must be a witness to the act. This is reflected in Section 221 of the Criminal Code.

How the Nigerian constitution discriminates against women remains countless. However, limitless privileges of the males abound over women and girls.

The privileges Nigerian men enjoy over women

Men enjoy privileges by default in a patriarchal society in which leadership and power both in and outside the home are conferred upon them. Society is also designed through laws, religion, and social and cultural norms to favour men systematically.

In Nigeria, the patriciahal system of government is practised. Throughout the years, men have had the privilege of running the country without significant progress, yet they stay in power. Currently, under male leadership, Nigeria’s annual inflation rate rose to 29.90 per cent in January 2024 from 28.92 per cent in December 2023, as revealed by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). 

Yet, despite the prevalence of corruption, the constant rising inflation, and the underdeveloped state of Nigeria under male leadership, it has never been argued that men should not be leaders. Meanwhile, a deficiency by any form of female leader is used as evidence of why women should not lead. 

It is also in situations where queer males like Ezra Olubi,  Co-founder and CTO of Paystack, can present in a non-conforming way without it negatively impacting their career as leaders. Meanwhile, women can not do such things in Nigeria without negative career consequences. It further presents itself in situations where women are at risk of lack of career progress once they become pregnant or reach birthing age.

Dorcas Edet, women’s rights advocate and social worker, further elucidates that male privilege is:

  • A woman bearing her father’s name, then her husband’s name and going through the pains of childbearing to have children who bear the man’s name
  • Men being considered the logical gender, while women are the emotional ones, yet males rank highest in violent and emotional crimes
  • All religions in Nigeria agreeing that the man is the head of the family for no reason but because he is male
  • Men are the greatest predators of both themselves and women while insisting that they are the “protectors”
  • Men being considered equal of two or more girls
  • Boys never having to worry about being married off, five times higher at age 11
  • Men being socially, traditionally, and concerning Islam being allowed to marry multiple women but not vice versa
  • Men inheriting most, if not all, of their parents’ properties because “the woman will marry”

Perhaps one of the greatest indications of how women’s rights are still massively underrepresented in Nigeria is the negative stereotype attached to women who are explicit about the need to be regarded and treated fairly as their male counterparts. 


Simbiat Bakare is a freelance journalist and women’s rights advocate from Lagos, Nigeria.