Over the course of the week, I got into an argument with a dear friend over the multiplicity of women-focused empowerment schemes and scholarships. He argued that since nearly each of these schemes focused on the female gender, they were no longer maligned. He equally argued that women are now being offered preferential treatment over men by their employers because these employers fear the public backlash.
I on my path had argued against this, pointing out that the work that has been done by International organizations and private individuals to reduce gender inequality over the last few decades is not even close to bridge the gap that was created for over hundreds of centuries. And as though the heavens wanted to buttress my point, the incident in the Ekiti State happened a few days after.
A young woman, Olajide Omolola who is an officer with the Nigerian Police Force had being dismissed from the job? Why? Because she got pregnant barely a year after her graduation from the Nigerian Police Force. We all thought it was a joke, until the Commissioner of Police in the State Babatunde Mobayo defended this. Apparently, her pregnancy was in contravention of Section 127 of the Police Regulation that specifies that an unmarried woman police who becomes pregnant shall be discharged from the Force and shall not be enlisted except with the approval of the IGP.
This forced me to take a microscopic look at the Regulations of the Nigerian Police and I discovered that is far from gender inclusive or friendly. Here are some problematic laws I found:
- By Regulation 118 (1)(c), a pregnant woman is also disqualified from being enlisted in the Nigerian Police Force — this however might be understandable due to the rigorous nature of the job.
- By Regulation 118 (1)(g), you cannot be enlisted as a female police officer in Nigeria if you’re married. You have to be unmarried.
- By Regulation 124 a female police officer who wants to get married must first apply in writing to the commissioner of police in the state where she is serving, requesting permission to marry and giving the name, address, and occupation of the person she in- tends to marry. Permission will be granted for the marriage if the intended husband is of good character. This section doesn’t contain a set of standards to define ‘good character.’ If the said commissioner fails to to grant the permission, she cannot get married.
- The same Regulation 124 states that such woman must have been served in the force for a period not less than three years. So if she had a fiancé before getting admitted into the force, she’d have to wait for three years before getting married to him. And the marriage isn’t sure to happen because the Commissioner of Police might not granted her the permission to.
- And of course, the Regulation 127 that Olajide Omolola contravened. Not only does it specify that an unmarried police woman who gets pregnant shall be discharged from the force, it also states that she will not be enlisted except with the approval of the Inspector General of Police. One laughable thing about this section is that no rule of this sort applies to men. So a unmarried police officer can impregnate an unmarried woman and nothing will done. In fact, he can impregnate an unmarried female colleague and go free while she gets to be punished.
Did you know?
That the outdated, discriminatory and retrogressive Police Regulations came into force in 1st April 1968 and has remained like that (save some few changes not beneficial to females) till date?
While this is true, this isn’t the full story. In December 2019, Senator Senator Uzenwa Onyebuchi of Imo State sponsored the Police Amendment Bill 2019 which sought to expunge these problematic provisions of the regulation. It however has not been passed and has only gotten to the second reading.
Section 46 of the Police Act also vests the pose to make Regulations in the president of Nigeria. He can be prevailed upon to alter the Regulations to make our Police force, gender inclusive and friendly.
President Barack Obama a few days ago reflected on his time in office and how he was able to push and sign his first bill into law in 2009 — a law that ordered companies to pay women the same wages as their male counterparts in the same roles. This became known as the Lily Ledbetter Fair Play Act. So up until that time, major companies (like GoodYear Tire and Rubber Company) had paid women less.
That happened in an advanced society like America only about a decade ago. You can only imagine how terrible it is for women in a developing nation like ours. And this is just the police — the level of systematic oppression spans across various sectors. We must do better for our women. I’d close with a quote from Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Noble Laureate.
“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”