Do you see the wife of the Governor of the State, Mrs Kafayat Oyetola mobilizing women for health, commerce, politics and moving them closer to new civilization? Do you know that such missionary journeys are not just for our State but a fulfilment of an international agenda? Were you in this year’s occasion of traditional prayer for the new year held in the State Secretariat? Were you told of what Ifa said? Have you been told that Ifa declared this year as the year of women? Do you know that Ifa is only corroborating the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day that says: “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’. Come along, please.
Have you read the 2019 World Bank Report on legal rights of women, that women have full legal rights to men in only six countries of the world, namely: Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden? Do you know that it was not until October 2017 that women were allowed to drive vehicles in Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world with such a restriction? Do you know that Nigeria is worse?
How did you feel when you heard that an undergraduate girl of Osun Varsity was kidnapped by a commercial bus driver who sold her to a ritualist at ten thousand Naira and later sold her handset for thirty thousand Naira? How do you feel as you see some fathers making love with their own under-aged daughters in our communities? How do you feel when you see women having mental issues being stoned to death for being alleged of witchcraft? How do you feel when you see the mutilated bodies of girls in street corners, bodies mutilated by organ harvesters for money rituals? Are you aware that there are some ritualists harvesting used pants of ladies for what only God knows? How do you feel when you hear the languid cries of babies, held down by female genital mutilators? What a way to think equal? What a way to build smart women? What a strange way to innovate with them? The words of Thomas Paine in “An Occasional Letter on the Female Sex” published in 1775 cut in:
“If we take a survey of ages and of countries, we shall find the women, almost without exception… adored and oppressed… they are … robbed of freedom of will by the laws…Yet such, I am sorry to say, is the lot of women over the whole earth. Man with regard to them, has been either an insensible husband or an oppressor.”
Are you a celebate who chooses not to marry? Can you still ignore the service of women in the markets, corner-shops, restaurants, hospitals, hotels and sundry places? Do you know Ondo town? Are you aware that there is a cultural festival in that town that forbids women from coming out on a particular day….a day without women? Do you know the results..shopsclosing down, hospitals desolate, churches deserted? A day without women is a day without the touch of humanity. The annual celebration of the International Women’s Day reminds us of the fact that the struggle to free our women is not a race but a marathon. The words of Aldous Huxley resonate: “To travel is to discover that everything is wrong.” .
International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year. It was first celebrated by the Socialist Party of America on 28 February,1909 in New York. The 1910 International Socialist Women’s Conference suggested that Women’s Day be held annually. Are you aware that it was in 1911 that it was marked for the first time on 19th March in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended and demanded for the right to vote and to hold public office, women’s rights to work, vocational training and to an end to discrimination? Are you aware that it was in 1913 and 1914 that it became a mechanism for protesting against World War I? Do you know that in 1914 Germany held the occasion on March 8 and that inspired the United Nations to adopt that day in 1975?
. Do you know that the focus of the 2019 theme is on innovative ways in which to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure? Come along.
Are you aware that it was in 1995 women’s conference in Beijing, China, that 189 governments approved 12 critical areas of concern for women where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination? Are you aware that it was in 2014at the 58th session that critical issues relating to gender equality and women’s rights and obstacles hindering the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls” were articulated? Are you aware that it was in 2015 that countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals with Goal 5 tasking us to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls? Do you know that we need to innovate with women? Come along.
Do you know that women have certain peculiar rights that include: the right: to bodily integrity and autonomy to be free from sexual violence; right to vote; hold public office; enter into legal contracts; have equal rights in family law; work; fair wages or equal pay; have reproductive rights; own property and education? Are you aware that various cultures designed different trajectories?
Ancient Greece had two States, namely: Athens and Sparta. In Athens, women had no legal personhood. Athenian women could only acquire rights over property through gifts, dowry and inheritance, enter into a contract worth less than the value of a measure of grain. In fact, there was a wrestling match in Athens. The winner was given an iron pot. But the loser was awarded thirty two women. Do you know that it was easy for slaves to buy freedom from their masters to become Athenian citizens than for any woman ever to acquire citizenship in ancient Athens? Do you know that Plato, in his book ‘The Republic’ recognized that extending civil and political rights to women would substantively alter the nature of the household and the state? Do you know that Aristotle of Stagira, in ‘Ethics and Politics’, argued that women would bring disorder and evil, therefore it was best to keep women separate from the rest of the society? Are you aware that in classical Athens women were also barred from becoming poets, journalists, scholars, politicians or artists? Yeah!.
Spartan was a warring State in ancient Greece. Women were formally excluded from military service. The various protracted warfare in the 4th century BC campaigns depopulated the men folks. There were more women who gained property from their dead husbands and gained recognition. Yet, they were not granted political power. And now, the Stoic philosophers came to the scene. They argued for equality of the sexes. The Cynics came. They argued that marriage is a moral companionship between equals rather than a biological or social necessity. Hence, men and women should enjoy sexual egalitarianism.
The Roman civilization resumed. Women could not vote, hold public office, or serve in the military. Women had to answer to their father in legal matters. Husbands gained authority on their wives only when the fathers were dead. A married woman retained ownership of any property she brought into the marriage. Girls had equal inheritance rights with boys if their father died intestate. . Under classical Roman law, a husband had no right to abuse his wife physically or compel her to have sex. Wife beating was sufficient grounds for divorce Roman law recognized rape as a capital crime and an attack on her family and father’s honour. Rape victims were shamed publicly for allowing the bad name in her father’s honour. The law assumed that rape could only be committed against a citizen in good standing. Whereas, any case of rape of a slave could be prosecuted only as damage to her owner’s property. It was the first Roman emperor, Augustus, that introduced moral legislation against adultery and criminalized it. Under that law, adultery was defined as any illicit sex act that occurred between a male citizen and a married woman, or between a married woman and any man other than her husband. In the law, a married woman could have sex only with her husband, but a married man did not commit adultery when he had sex with a prostitute, slave, or person of marginalized status.Shikena!
The Byzantine Empire came to the scene. Women who were not prostitutes, slaves or entertainers were forced to wear veils. Like previous Roman law, women could not be legal witnesses or hold administration. Celibacy and childlessness were approved for those entering a professed religious life. Second marriages were discouraged. A widow’s right to property ceased on re-marriage.The Leonine Constitutions at the end of the 9th century made third marriages punishable. The same constitutions made the benediction of a priest a necessary part of the ceremony of marriage. That was inherited by us.
In the Confucian law in Imperial China, there were three ‘Obediences‘ . Daughters were to obey their fathers, wives to obey their husbands, and widows to obey their sons. A wife could be ousted if she could not give birth to a son or committed adultery, disobeyed her parents-in-law, spoke roughly, stole, jealous, or suffered from an incurable disease. About 45% of Chinese women had bound feet in the 19th century, a practice involving alteration of the bone structure so that the feet were only about 6 cm long to restrict the ‘suspicious’ movements of women. The practice only stopped in 1912. Do you know that in the Biblical times, women were not counted as part of the population? Are you aware that in the book of 1st Corinthians 14:34-34, women were forbidden from even talking in the church? The verse interludes: “…for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. “
Are you aware that the rights of women soared up in medieval Christian Church when the first formal legal provision for the right of wives was promulgated by Council of Adge in 506, which in Canon XVI stipulated that if a young married man wished to be ordained, he required the consent of his wife? Do you know that in medieval Europe, women were inferior to men in legal status? Do you know that women were regarded as property? Do you know that in France at this time, women could not serve as a valid witness in a criminal trial and women could not act as justices in courts, be attorneys and they could not be members of a jury and they could not accuse another person of a felony unless it was the murder of their husbands? Are you aware that about 90 per cent of those executed during the witch-hunt of the 16th and 17th centuries were women? Are you aware that husbands controlled most of their wives’ personal property until the Married Women’s Property Act 1870 and Married Women’s Property Act 1882? Do you know that common law of England recognized children as the husband’s property and that rape was legally impossible within a marriage?
Movements emerged to demand freedom of religion, abolitionof slavery, rights for women, rights for those who did not own property, and universal suffrage. Philosopher J. J. Rousseau argued that it was the order of nature for woman to obey men. He wrote: “Women do wrong to complain of the inequality of man-made laws and claimed that when she tries to usurp our rights, she is our inferior”. In 1791, a French activist Olympe de Gouges published the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen modelled on the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 of France. It states that: “This revolution will only take effect when all women become fully aware of their deplorable condition, and of the rights they have lost in society”. The first article of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen proclaims that “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be based only on common utility.” The first article of Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen written by Olympe de Gouges changed it to: “Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights. Social distinctions may only be based on common utility“.Australian women’s rights activists published their own version in 1887 Melbourne Punch cartoon: “All citizens including women are equally admissible to all public dignities, offices and employments, according to their capacity, and with no other distinction than that of their virtues and talents”.
Do you know that married women could not work without the consent of their husbands in France until 1965, and in Spain until 1975? Do you know that married women were barred from employment in many professions in many countries, including Austria, Australia, Ireland, Canada, and Switzerland until 1970? Do you know that New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote on a national level in 1893? Do you know that Australia gave women the right to vote in 1902, Finland (1906), Norway (1913), Denmark and Iceland (1915), the Netherlands (1917), Austria, Azerbaijan, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Georgia, Poland and Sweden (1918), Germany and Luxembourg (1919), Turkey (1934), and the United States (1920), Greece in 1952, Switzerland (1971 at federal level; 1959–1991 on local issues at canton level), Portugal (1976 on equal terms with men, with restrictions since 1931) as well as the microstates of San Marino in 1959, Monaco in 1962, Andorra in 1970, and Liechtenstein in 1984? Are you aware that in Latin America some countries gave women the right to vote in the first half of the 20th century, Ecuador (1929), Brazil (1932), El Salvador (1939), Dominican Republic (1942), Guatemala (1956) and Argentina (1946). Do you know that women were given the right to vote in Indiain 1935, Japan (1945), China (1947) and Indonesia (1955).Do you know that in Africa, women generally got the right to vote along with men through universal suffrage with Liberia (1947), Uganda (1958) and Nigeria (1960)? Are you aware that the women in Kuwait got the right to vote only on 16 May 2005?
Do you know that women continue to suffer under the property rights in many jurisdictions? Do you know that even in the United States, Head and Master laws gave sole control of marital property to the husband? Are you aware that it was the Supreme Court of the United States that recently declared it unconstitutional in the case Kirchberg v. Feenstra (1981)? Are you aware that many women are not having freedom of movement prescribed in Article 15 (4) of CEDAW? Do you know that women have their rights restricted? Do you know that laws restricting women from travelling existed until relatively recently in some Western countries? Do you know that until 1983, in Australia the passport application of a married woman had to be authorized by her husband? Do you know that till today in Nigeria the passport application of a married woman had to be authorized by her husband? No wonder that the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women states at Art. 4 (d) “States should also inform women of their rights in seeking redress through such mechanisms”.
Do you know that women are extremely discriminated against in many jurisdictions? Do you know that in Opuz v Turkey, the European Court for Human Rights defined violence against women as a form of discrimination against women? The World Health Organization declares:
“Discrimination in health care settings takes many forms and is often manifested when an individual or group is denied access to health care services that are otherwise available to others. It can also occur through denial of services that are only needed by certain groups, such as women.”
Do you know that many women are denied the right to good health resulting to more than 300.000 deaths per year, most of them in developing countries? Do you know that additional deaths of female children in hundreds of thousands are recorded in certain traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation, face-marks and body-marks? Do you know that young women and adolescent girls are the population most affected by HIV/AIDS? Are you aware of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights? Do you know that the world has about 20 million children on the streets? Do you know that more than 80 per cent of them are females? Article 3 states:
“The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights set forth in the present Covenant”, with Article 13 recognizing “the right of everyone to education”
Do you know that Russia was the first country to legaliseabortions and offer free medical care in state hospitals to do so? Are you aware that the Bolsheviks legalised abortion in November 1920? Do you know that many women cannot exercise their reproductive rights including the right to legal or safe abortion, the right to control one’s reproductive functions, the right to access quality reproductive healthcare, and the right to education and access in order to make reproductive choices free from coercion, discrimination, and violence? Do you remember the case of Safiya in Nigeria, a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery while her male partner was only caned? Do you know that reproductive rights are often defined to include freedom from female genital mutilation (FGM), and forced abortion and forced sterilization? Do you know that women’s reproductive rights should include the right to easy access to a safe and legal abortion? Do you know that abortion fully prohibited in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Malta, Nicaragua, and the Vatican? Do you know that in some countries abortion is permitted only to save the pregnant woman’s life like in Nigeria? Then what happens to pregnancy that resulted from rape or incest that are very common in our country?Approximately 13 per cent of maternal deaths worldwide are attributable to unsafe abortion—between 68,000 and 78,000 deaths annually. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in paragraph 18 of its General recommendation No. 35 on gender based violence against women states:
“Violations of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, such as forced sterilizations, forced abortion, forced pregnancy, criminalisation of abortion, denial or delay of safe abortion and post abortion care, forced continuation of pregnancy, abuse and mistreatment of women and girls seeking sexual and reproductive health information, goods and services, are forms of gender based violence that, depending on the circumstances, may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
Do you know that there is a new recently identified global problem and a basic violation of a woman’s rights? Do you know that most health workers abuse and nag women during pre-natal, childbirth and post-natal periods? Do you notice that child marriage is on the increase? Do you notice that forced pregnancy is on the increase? Do you notice that forced marriage, including bride kidnapping is rising high? Do you notice that incest is the increase? Do you notice that rape is on the increase? Are you aware that violence against women may be perpetrated by individuals, groups or State? Do you know that it may occur in private or in public? Do you know that violence against women may be sexual, physical, psychological, or socioeconomic? Do you see the indignities suffered by widows in our communities? Do you know that some families drive away the widows from their husbands’ property? Do you know that some of them are accused of complicity in the death of their husbands? Do you know that some of them are charmed or assassinated so that they may lose the propriety rights of their husbands? The provisions of Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
“(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”
Do you know that Article 16 of CEDAW stipulates: “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations”.
Do you know that international law frowns a bit at polygamy which is now rampant as many men practiced it officially and unofficially? The General recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, states at General Recommendation No. 21 titled: “ Equality in marriage and family relations: “Polygamous marriage contravenes a woman’s right to equality with men, and can have such serious emotional and financial consequences for her and her dependents that such marriages ought to be discouraged and prohibited.”
Are you aware that our international law has taken care of cohabitation of unmarried couples as well as single mothers that are now very common in our communities? The Human Rights Committee has states: “In giving effect to recognition of the family in the context of article 23, it is important to accept the concept of the various forms of family, including unmarried couples and their children and single parents and their children and to ensure the equal treatment of women in these contexts (General Comment 19 paragraph 2 last sentence). Single parent families frequently consist of a single woman caring for one or more children, and States parties should describe what measures of support are in place to enable her to discharge her parental functions on the basis of equality with a man in a similar position.”
Do you know that the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 of 31 October 2000 is apposite here? It states: The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, the first formal and legal document from the United Nations Security Council that requires all states to respect fully international humanitarian law and international human rights law applicable to the rights and protection of women and girls during and after the armed conflicts.
Are you aware of the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights that guarantees comprehensive rights to women including the right to take part in the political process, to social and political equality with men, and to control of their reproductive health, and an end to female genital mutilation? Do you know that women still have another day to celebrate this year? Are you aware of the resolution in 1999 of the General Assembly that declared the day of 25 November to be the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.?
And one more thing. Do you know that in 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda established by the United Nations made landmark decisions that rape is a crime of genocide under international law? Do you know that the trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu, the mayor of Taba Commune in Rwanda, established precedents that rape is an element of the crime of genocide? Do you know that the Rome Statute Explanatory Memorandum, which defines the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, recognises rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, “or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity” as a crime against humanity if the action is part of a widespread or systematic practice?
Can you now see why women deserve the various social protection initiatives of the present administration at the State and national levels? Can you now see why women have to be pacified with traders’ money? Do you now see why their children have to enjoy at least a meal a day in the Elementary Schools? Do you now see why Mr Adegboyega Oyetola has to start to renovate and reconstruct 322 health centres and nine General Hospitals? Can you now see why his wife had to settle the medical bills of indigent patients in our hospitals? Can you now see why his wife had to campaign to women voters? Do you know that out of the out-going members of the State House of Assembly in our State, there is no single woman? Do you know that the wife of the Governor would be eager to see women legislators in the new dispensation? Do you now see why 8th March and 25th November of every year are important to women and all of us? And to all the women out there, let us adapt the poem of American poet, Walt Whitman titled Weep Not Child? The adaptation reads:
“Weep not, women,
Weep not, my darling
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not be long victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky…