Tilting at Windmills

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Hundreds of Nigerian women protested in front of the country’s parliament Wednesday following lawmakers’ decision to reject amendments to the constitution promoting women’s equality, Al Jazeera reported.

Among the rejected changes, the upper house of parliament voted against a provision that would allocate 35 percent of parliamentary seats to women and reserve 35 percent of political party leadership positions for women.

It also rejected a proposal to grant citizenship to the foreign-born husbands of Nigerian women – the constitution confers automatic citizenship on foreign-born wives of Nigerian men.

Many women said the rejections are a setback after years of efforts by female lawmakers, lobbyists and advocates. They noted that the vote against the bills was symptomatic of what remains a deeply conservative society.

Nearly half of Nigeria’s population is female but women are highly underrepresented in the country’s political space: Only 19 out of 469 lawmakers in both houses of parliament are female – about four percent. Meanwhile, no woman has ever held the position of governor or president and only a small number of cabinet positions have been filled by women.

The demonstrations followed a session of parliament on Tuesday focused on amending the constitution, the fifth time lawmakers have tried to change it since it was adopted in 1999 during the transition from military rule to democracy.

During that session, lawmakers also rejected a constitutional amendment that would permit Nigerian citizens living abroad to vote in the national elections, according to Reuters.

Africa’s most-populous nation is scheduled to elect a new president next year.

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