Nigeria: Protest the proposed law on 'indecent clothing'

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.

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.