Harmful Traditional Practices, Laws, and Reproductive Rights of Women in Nigeria: A Therapeutic Jurisprudence Approach

Harmful Traditional Practices, Laws, and Reproductive Rights of Women in Nigeria: A Therapeutic Jurisprudence Approach

Yomi Rasul Olukolu (University of Lagos, Nigeria)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2472-4.ch001
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Abstract

There are many traditional practices in Nigeria that literally affect women's reproductive rights within and without marriages ranging from genital mutilation, harmful traditional practices to control women, early girl marriage, one sided divorce rights in Islamic marriage to men alone, nutritional taboos and other uncouth pregnancy related practices, to unfavorably widowhood practices and inheritance. This chapter intends to bring to the fore these traditional practices which impede the women's reproductive rights in Nigeria with emphasis on the study of the role of law as a therapeutic agent within the therapeutic jurisprudential context. This is done with a view to calling on the Nigerian government to wake up to its responsibility by enacting local laws specifically on women's rights generally or domesticating the various international instruments which the country had so far voluntarily ratified on women's reproductive rights.
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Introduction

Recognition of the rights of human beings as a special category of rights within the mainstream of human rights is traceable to the United Nation’s Charter. The Charter declares inter alia that one of the purposes of the organization “…. is the promotion and encouragement of respect for human rights and fundamental freedom for all without discrimination or distinction as to race, sex, language or religion” (Article 3). Subsequent international instruments have made similar objective in relation to the protection of human rights. For example, the first paragraph of Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948 provides that:

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or the opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status (Article 2).

Similar positions are expressed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The Africa Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 1981 declares in Article 2 the same normative standard set by UDHR. Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also provides that:

A citizen of Nigeria, of a particular community, ethnic group, and place of origin, Sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person

(a). Be subjected either expressly by, or in the political application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic, groups, places of origin, sex, religion, or political opinions are not made subject: or

(b). Be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinion.

In spite of this plethora of legal instruments, equality remains more of a mirage due to the prevalence of legal, administrative and cultural impediments and inhibitions erected and maintained against women. These instruments conflict with the internationally recognized equality status of women. In order to address this anomaly and call special attention to the rights of women, the international community has devoted time and resources to advocacies. This has yielded commendable results in terms of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979; the 2006 Maputo Protocol additional to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the rights of women; and the relevant decisions made at crucial international meetings like the Beijing Conference, which was held in 1995 in China. Apart from these, catchy slogans and terminologies are being generated to call attention to the basic issues at stake. One of the terminologies, which evolved from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo, was the ‘Reproductive Rights of Women’.

Nigeria is a signatory to all the foregoing Conventions but the rights of women, especially their reproductive rights still continue to elude the womenfolk as a result of several traditional practices and customs prevalent within the Nigerian society. This chapter, therefore, intends to bring to the fore these traditional practices which impede the women’s reproductive rights in Nigeria with emphasis on the study of the role of law as a therapeutic agent within the therapeutic jurisprudential context. This will be done with a view to calling on the Nigerian government to wake up to its responsibility by enacting local laws specifically on women’s rights generally or domesticating the various international instruments which the country had so far voluntarily ratified on women’s reproductive rights.

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Harmful Traditional Practices And Reproductive Rights In Nigeria

Traditional cultural practices are values and beliefs consistently held by members of a community for periods often spanning generations. While there are a good number of customary and traditional practices, which have merit, for instance, community conflict resolution strategies, some are of no benefits to society. Nevertheless, it has been established that the more severe the effect of a practice, the more likely that the victim will either be a woman or child, particularly, a female child.

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