There are erroneous ideas that have been bandied about for so long that they lose their untrue status and become acceptable as “truth” or “norm”. The level of acceptability becomes rife that those who are averse to these ideas are seen as the “other”, unconventional, or down-rightly branded as wrong. Unfortunately, some of these untruths which metamorphose, by constant mention, to “truths” are regurgitated from one generation to another. The vicious circle continues as those who are too lazy to properly make enquiries about the true position accept and accentuate falsehood.
A veritable example of the foregoing is the myth of women’s incompetence to stand surety for bail. Over the years, most Nigerians have come to believe and pass down the idea that women cannot be sureties. It is even more disheartening when this wrong is perpetuated by the law enforcement officers themselves. Those whose primary duty is to imbibe and enforce the law unfortunately transfer traditional patriarchal bias on gender differentiation to the interpretation of the law.
Obviously, this evil is perpetuated without recourse to Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution which unequivocally provides that:
(1) A Citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, circumstance of birth, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person
(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinions are not made subject; or
(b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinions.
(2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth. In view of the above, it is worrisome that the constitution which is our groundnorm (basic norm) is blatantly disregarded. Women are embarrassed daily and made to feel that “All men are equal but some are more equal than others”, even in this post-Beijing era.
A surety is just a person who guarantees by means of recognizance, the appearance in court or at a police station of an accused person admitted to bail. What the law only requires, by virtue of Section 122 of the Criminal Procedure Act (Applicable in the South) is for the surety to enter into recognisance to ensure the attendance of the accused person in court. A similar provision is stated in Section 345 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Applicable in the North) which enjoins a surety to execute a bond for the appearance of a person admitted to bail.
It is noteworthy to state that both Section 134 of the Criminal Procedure Act and Section 351 of the Criminal Procedure Code allow a surety to apply to discharge a recognizance or bond, either wholly or in so far as it applies to the applicant. On discharge of such recognizance or bond, the court shall issue a warrant for the arrest of the person on whose behalf the recognizance or bond was executed and require such person to find other surety or sureties. Also, by Section 143 of the Criminal Procedure Act and Section 355 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the court is empowered to order the arrest of a person bound by any recognizance or bond if such person fails to appear before the court at a designated time.
In granting bail, the major interest of the court is in the appearance of the accused person at a certain day and place and not the sex of the surety. By Section 341 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the factors considered before granting bail are namely: the nature of the offence, the severity of the punishment, the criminal records of the accused (Eyu V State) and the likelihood of the accused committing other offences while on bail (R V Jammal). Other factors to be considered are: the likelihood of the accused interfering with the investigation of the offence (Dantata V Police), the probability of delay in the trial and most importantly, the likelihood of the accused jumping bail and not appearing in court.
Therefore, the sex of a surety is inconsequential as long as the purpose is achieved .
After due consideration of legal principles relating to bail and suretyship, one is left wondering about the basis for the exclusion of women. It is very surprising that even those who are supposed to have risen above such machismo are the very ones who discriminate against women and quickly point out their “position” to them.
Law enforcement agents who refuse women from standing surety for bail should note that they have no legal backing, or logical basis. Afterall, women have proved their mettle in all areas of human endeavour, no matter the stratum. Women are excelling even in fields hitherto considered the exclusive preserve of men. Therefore, being a woman does not translate into intellectual or economic inferiority. The two sexes are supposed to complement each other rather than seek areas of inequality.
It is heartwarming though that some law enforcement officers have risen above this baseless assumption and now allow women to surety bail. Those who are still fixated on this illegal discrimatory and retrogressive practice should have a rethink and tow the line of reason because women of impeccable integrity who possess the wherewithal to surety bail abound.
‘It Is Time To End Violence Against Women’
While pervasive, gender-based violence may seem to appear inevitable in our own clime, African Women Lawyers, Rivers State Chapter, believe that it can and must be prevented. To them, stopping this violence starts with believing survivors, adopting comprehensive and inclusive approaches that tackle the root causes, transforming harmful social norms, and empowers women and girls.
With women and girls living in danger around the world owing to conflict, climate-related natural disasters, food insecurity and human rights violations, which in turn exacerbate violence against women, this great body of women lawyers have decided to raise their voice against all shades of violence against women whether it be domestic or official
In pursuant of their aims and objectives, AWLA commemorate land mark dates set by the African Union and United Nations to raise awareness about the plight of women and children.
As the world engages in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the body avails itself the opportunity to highlight some violent and of course harmful practices Nigerian women are continually subjected to, as well as condemn such and create the awareness among the populace that perpetrators of such inhumane acts on a folk that deserves and desires protection in all spheres, will receive a bang of the law.
This year, AwLA is using the window provided by the United Nations via the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, to contribute their own quota especially as it relates to condemning in concrete terms, societal practices that run foul to the healthy development of the women.
Activities outlined in commemorate of the 2021 version of the 16 days of activisms against gender based violence include; advocacy and sensitization visits to Khana Local Government and Oginigba in Obio/Akpor Local Government on 26th and 30th November respectively while free legal clinic takes place in Port Harcourt Local Government on 29th of November.
While the program lasts, stakeholders are expected to brainstorm on how to solve the challenges faced by women, while women will be enlightened on their right as well as be sensitized on how to seek redress.
In a chat with The Tide woman Editor, Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi, the Coordinator of the African Women Lawyers Association, Hilda Desmond-Ihekaire, said her association is quite proactive on issues that bother on women and children’s rights.
She encouraged women to speak out against injustice meted on them by people who are supposed to protect their interest, stating that the era of accepting every awkward treatment against them is over. She enjoined them to avail themselves the opportunity of the free legal clinic provided at this season to vent out their grievances.
The AWLA coordinator revealed that her association is already handling matters of gender based violence in court at the moment and would stop at nothing until the public comes to appreciate that women are also human that should not be treated unjustly.
AWLA is a group of women lawyers with the aim and objective of protecting the right and interest of women and children in Africa. They do this through multi facetted approach, using advocacy, sensitization campaign and probono litigation services on women and children’s issues
16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.
By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi
NAWOJ Moves To Check Violence Against Women, Girls … Seeks More Action, Resources
Chairman, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State Chapter, Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, has called for strengthened actions and resources to address violence against women and girls in the society.
Speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt, yesterday, November 25, 2021 to commemorate this year’s 16-Days of Activism, with the theme: ‘Orange the world: End Violence Against Women Now’, the Chairman, NAWOJ, Rivers State Chapter stated that violence against women and girls reached pandemic proportion especially during the COVID-19 hit that resulted to lockdown.
Serekara stressed that as lockdown measures were implemented to stop the spread of the coronavirus, violence against women, domestic violence intensified as school closures and economic strains left women and girls poorer, out of school and out of jobs, making them more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, forced marriage, and harassment.
“We believe that ending violence against women will require strengthened actions by the government through more investment in women and girls,” she said, regretting that formal reports of domestic violence have decreased, yet survivors find it harder to seek help and access support through the regular channels. She further noted that the 16 days of activism is an expression that gender-based violence though not inevitable, can and must be prevented.
“While gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, some women and girls are particularly vulnerable – for instance, young girls and teenage girls who are employed as house helps . Violence against women continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfillment of women and girls’ human rights,” Serekara added.
By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana
NAWOJ Seeks Adequate Protection, Provision For Children
Aware of the numerous problems children face especially with the current harsh economy of our nation, the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State has stressed the need to protect the lives of children while investing in their future.
The association said this during this year’s commemoration of “The Universal Children’s Day”, that had “investing in our children means investing in our future”, as its theme.
This was contained in a statement signed by the association’s Chairman and Secretary, Mrs Susan Serekara-Nwikhana and Dr Ngozi Anosike, respectively.
The statement described the essence of the day as a time to improve the welfare for all children.
“NAWOJ is using this special day to call on governments at all levels to ensure that every child is given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually, while cautioning parents against reproducing the number of children they cannot properly care for but give them out at their tender ages as house helps thereby exposing them to all forms of abuse.
“NAWOJ appreciates the fact that to invest in our nation requires that the child that is hungry is fed, the child that is sick nursed, the child that is backward helped, the delinquent child reclaimed, and the orphan and the unsheltered are secured”.
It commended the Governor of the State, Chief Nyesom Wike for ensuring that the Rehabilitation Centre at Iriebe is operating at optimum capacity.
NAWOJ recalls that during the commissioning of the rehabilitation Centre, Governor Wike magnanimously doled out N250million to the ministry of social welfare, just to ensure regular power supply and smooth running of the facility, a gesture NAWOJ appreciates so much as it translates to giving the children a sense of belonging.
The association also stressed the need to save the lives of new born babies in maternity homes and hospitals and called on Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company to as a matter of necessity ensure regular power supply to those facilities.
The association in the statement regretted the death of premature children in the Intensive Care Unit of OPM Free Hospital at Aluu axis of the State as a result of power outage.
“Universal Children’s Day, celebrated annually on the 20th of November, is not just a day to celebrate children for who they are, but to bring awareness to children that have experienced violence in forms of abuse, exploitation, and discrimination”, the statement added.
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