Nigeria is one of Africa’s most populous countries with women forming approximately 49 percent of the population in the country (LINK ONE).

It is however unfortunate that the majority of these women still face a lot of discrimination and maltreatment from the male gender and even the laws of the country that is meant to protect them.

We take a look at ten bizarre and discriminatory laws against women in Africa’s most populous country.

1) Domestic Violence : Section 55 (1) (d) of the Penal Code applicable in the Northern Nigeria makes it lawful for a man to beat his wife for the purpose of correcting her as long as it doesn’t supposedly lead to grievous bodily harm (LINK TWO). Weird right? I can imagine the man throwing some Jet li kicks and Muhammed Ali punches on his wife with the defence of ‘correction’ as provided under this law. This section allows for the abuse of the woman by her husband when she supposedly misbehaves or frustrates the husband. This provision is barbaric and one of the numerous laws that allows the male gender to maltreat women in Nigeria.

2) Labour Law: The Labour Act of Nigeria prohibits women employed in certain industries from working night shifts. Section 55 Labour Act of Nigeria (LINK 3) states that except for nurses, women are not to be employed for night work in any public or private industrial undertaking or in any agricultural undertaking. Women who are committed to working hard are denied the opportunity to do so and consequentially, they are denied the opportunity to earn more by the provisions of this law.

3) Sexual Assault: The Penal code states that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife does not amount to rape if such a lady has attained puberty. As such, the offence of marital rape is not provided for under the Nigerian law. Section 182 of the Penal Code which is applicable in Northern Nigeria affirms the position that a man cannot be said to have raped his wife not taking into cognizance the fact that the sex was forcefully obtained from the wife (LINK FOUR).

4) Married Women : Married women are prevented from enlisting in the Nigerian Police force under Section 127 of the Police Act (LINK FIVE). An unmarried police woman that is found to be pregnant would be immediately discharged from the Police Force. This provision surprisingly does not apply to married men. A woman that is also single at the time of her enlistment must have also spent three years in active service before she applies for permission to marry and she must give particulars of her fiancé who must be investigated and cleared before such permission for marriage is given according to Section 124 of the country’s Police Act. (LINK SIX).

5) Rape Victims: Section 221 of the Criminal Code of Southern Nigeria (LINK SEVEN) where it states that when it relates to the defilement of girls less than 16 years, a person cannot be convicted of the offence of unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl being or above thirteen years and under sixteen years of age on the uncorroborated evidence of one witness. This simply states that the evidence of one person is not sufficient to prove that a female was raped .

6) Different Punishment : Indecent assault against male and female carry different punishment under the Nigerian law. While an individual that commits an indecent assault on a male is guilty of a felony and liable to an imprisonment of three years by virtue of section 353 of the criminal code, an individual that indecently assaults a woman is guilty of misdemeanour and is liable to an imprisonment of two years by virtue of section 360 of the criminal code (LINK EIGHT). It is clear that an assault on a man is given a stricter punishment than an assault on a woman and once again shows the discrimination against women inherent in Nigerian laws.

7) Consent Before Marriage: Section 18 of the Marriage Act states that the consent of the father of either party to an intended marriage is required if either of the parties are under the age of 21 years (LINK NINE). It is clear that even though two people gave birth to the kids, only the father’s consent is made mandatory under the Nigerian law, a pointer to the utter disregard of women which is evident in the Marriage Act of the country. It is only when the father is of unsound mind, dead or out of Nigeria that the consent of the woman must be sort thus relegating the position of the woman.

8) Passport and Citizenship: – Section 26 of the 1999 constitution as amended provides that a woman can be conferred citizenship upon being married to a citizen of Nigeria but similar provision is not made when a man is married to a Nigerian woman (LINK TEN). As a matter of fact, this law resulted in the deportation of Dr Patrick Wilmot, a Jamaican from Nigeria by the Ibrahim Babangida administration even though his wife is a Nigerian citizen from Sokoto state (LINK ELEVEN).

9) Customary Law: Customary law refers to the customs and practices of the people of Nigeria spread across ethnic divides. Under most customary laws in Nigeria, a woman cannot inherit property in Nigeria. The Oli Ekpe custom for example gives the son of the brother to the deceased rights over the property even more than the first female child. In the Igbo tribe of Nigeria also, the custom doesn’t allow for the female children to inherit anything (LINK TWELVE). The inheritance rules of the Igbo ethnic group appear to largely favour male offspring over female offspring of a deceased person. For instance, although many local variations exist, inheritance of individually owned land generally follows the principle of primogeniture.

10) Political Discrimination: Section 131 of the Nigerian constitution uses the word “he” while listing qualifications for the office of the president insinuating that only a man can be a president (LINK THIRTEEN). The constitution generally uses the he, his, him and doesn’t include female pronouns. The word ‘he’ appears about 236 times in the Nigerian constitution. It seems like the Nigerian constitution doesn’t believe in female presidents. Strange!

We do really hope that the government of Nigeria take appropriate steps to amend or totally repeal these discriminatory laws against women and ensure the fundamental human rights of women are guaranteed in a society that embraces and maintains equality and fairness in all ramifications .


LINK TWO : (Penal Code ACT Chapter P3 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria )

: (Labour Act Chapter L1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria

(Penal Code ACT Chapter P3 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria

LINK FIVE : (127 Police Act

LINK SIX : (124 Police Act

LINK SEVEN : (Criminal Code

LINK EIGHT : (Criminal Code

(Marriage Act

LINK TEN : (1999 Constitution as amended 2011 )

: (Falana,F (2013) “ Women’s Day and the Gender Agenda “ This day Newspaper online edition retrieved 5 february 2021 )


LINK THIRTEEN (1999 Constitution as amended 2011 )

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