The House of Representatives is to abolish certain cultural traditions and mourning rites that infringe against the fundamental human rights of widows.
The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (Amendment) Bill 2021, which is awaiting second reading at the House, is to “prohibit the discrimination against widows and all forms of repressive and degrading widowhood practices, provide for remedies for victims and penalise offenders.”
The lawmaker representing Akoko South-East/Akoko South-West Federal Constituency in Ondo State at the House, Adejoro Adeogun, sponsored the bill.
There had been reports of widows sleeping with remains of husbands for days, shaving of their hairs, pit in solitary confinement, public ridicule, ejection from matrimonial home and outright takeover and possession of couple’s property by in-laws, among others.
The bill, which is seeking to amend the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, No. 19, 2015, will substitute Section 15 of the Act with a new section.
The new Section 15 will read, “(1) A person who subjects a widow to harmful widowhood practices commits an offence and is liable on conviction (a) to imprisonment for a term of seven years without any option of fine; and (b) any other compensation to the widow as the court may deem necessary in the circumstance.
“(2) A person who attempts to inflict any harmful widowhood practice provided under subsection (1), commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of three years or a fine of N1,000,000 or both.
“(3) A person who incite, aids, abets or counsels another to commit an offence under subsection (1), commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of three years or a fine of N1,000,000 or both.”
The bill will also amend Section 38 of the Act by inserting new subsections.
The amended Section 38(a) is to read, “(1) In addition to the rights guaranteed under the Constitution or any other international human rights instrument to which Nigeria is a signatory, a widow shall have the right to (a) continue to live in the matrimonial home after the death of her husband and where she remarries, she shall retain the matrimonial home if it belongs to her or she inherited it and shall not be forcefully evicted.
“(b) Inherit from the property of her late husband or in-laws where the property is jointly owned; (c) enter a marriage of her own choice; and (d) own and administer property including the right to enter into contract and access credit without being accountable to her in-laws.
“(2) A widow shall be vested with the guardianship of a child if she is the mother of the child.”
According to the proposed law, where a widow gets a gainful employment or remarries, any facility provided for her under the bill shall be withdrawn from the date the widow gets employed or remarried.
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