Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Bill to grant widows property rights, passes 2nd reading

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A bill to give widows access to their late husband’s property, stop rape, forced marriages and other evil customary practices has passed second reading at the House of Representatives.

Sergius Ogun (PDP-Edo), sponsored the bill entitled:  “An Act to amend the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015, which was  read on the floor of the House on Thursday in Abuja.

He stated that the bill would prohibit discrimination against widows and all forms of repressive and degrading widowhood practices.

“The bill will make provision for the definition of the offence of image-based sexual abuse under the Act and also make provision for penalty for offence of image-based sexual abuse.”

Mr Ogun said the bill specifically called for amendment to 6 sections of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act of 2015.

Leading the debate, Ogun decried inhuman treatment being meted to some widows.

According to him, this bill proposes to amend six sections of the violent against persons act to make provisions to safeguard widows from violent and evil customary practices.

Others included denial of property rights, rape, forced marriages and all other dehumanising acts that undermined the dignity of the widow.

“The amendment(s) are geared toward achieving the following: Define what constitutes harmful and  degrading widowhood practices; define what constitutes the rights of widows under the Act.

“Prescribe penalties for infractions against the Act; preserving the 23rd day of May of every year as a National Day for the prohibition of discrimination against widows, women and girls.

“This is to bring the problem of discrimination against widows to national attention; saddle the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP) with the responsibility.

This according to him is with the responsibility of administering the provisions of this bill and organising events to commemorate the national day for the prohibition of such discrimination.

He said that, in several parts of Nigeria, widows were made to pay heavy penalties for the painful departure of husbands that they loved and shared their lives with.

He added that they were usually stigmatised, denied access to property and in some cases, denied access to their own children for reasons that had no place under any Nigerian law.

“Widowhood is not by choice. Widows are victims of the inevitability of death. So why do our society criminalise the unfortunate incident of widowhood?

“Why are widows denied the right to mourn in peace, is the trauma of their loss met with more trauma rather than solace?

He said the house had a duty to right this wrong, adding that mothers, sisters, aunties, friends, colleagues deserved to be protected.

However, when the bill was put to voice vote, there was an overwhelming support of the members and it was adopted for second reading.


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