In Whose Name? Drafting National Gender Equality Legislation in Nigeria

Dr. Adryan Wallace

The recent waves of Islamophobia reflected in events such as Brexit, the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the rise in other right wing extremist movements across Europe underscore the importance of capturing the agency of Muslim women in promoting political inclusion. The mainstreaming of the theoretical interventions of Islamic and Muslim feminisms into broader collective feminist agendas need to be examined. More specifically understanding the multiple ways in which Muslim women are creating both competing and complimentary definitions of gender equality illustrates the strategies that groups can undertake to address their sets of interests. A careful examination of Muslim feminists’ scholarship and activism provides a context within which to understand the intersecting relationships of identity, interests, and the formation of organizations to attain outlined goals.

In order to examine the ways in which the conceptualization of gender equality and political inclusion can marginalize the perspectives of Muslim women this paper analyzes the politics surround the drafting of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill in Nigeria. Nigeria is a presidential federal republic where the states in the northern part of the country have been living under Sharia law since 1999. The primary research question is what strategies can be employed to help ensure that a representative sample of women’s groups and activists are included when creating national gender equality legislation? The study utilizes a mixed methods approach including interviews and content analysis of media coverage and white papers, to examine the politics surrounding the drafting, adoption and solicitation of the bill. More specifically this paper seeks to explore the relationships among the debates, support for and resistance to the bill and the ways in which they reflect the multiple sites of feminist activity, constructions of gender equality, issues of inclusion, privilege and access among women in Nigeria. In particular the experiences of Muslim women’s organizations and the contributions of Muslim scholars will serve to examine the ways in which gender equality is a contested term especially during attempts to translate it into legislative policy.