The Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF) has observed resurgence in hate speech and negative narratives against women within Nigeria’s public space, and in particular, trending within on social media. The latest of such onslaught is the attack on the new Deputy Governor of Kaduna State Dr. Hadiza Sabuwa Balarebe on the basis of her gender. A social media user on May 29, 2019 took to his handle to react to the swearing in of the female elected leader with the following written words. “Today a woman becomes the deputy governor of Kaduna state, I’m not going to tell you the danger that comes with having a woman as a leader, but if she’s going to be our governor come 2023, then I’m afraid there’s no hope for kaduna state. Only downhill from there”. If there is going to be a woman leading a state (governor) please let it be in the southern part of this country. Keep it far away from the north. The above vitriol targets women, promotes discrimination against their political participation in leadership capacity and denies their right to dignity and equality before the law. In addition, its divisive nature further incites public sentiments against certain ethnic groups through its employment of hate speech. More importantly, it constitutes violence against women and denigrates their citizenship.
The citizens of Kaduna state exercised their democratic choices and preference by electing a female Deputy Governor back in March 2019. In addition, Nigeria as a country has committed to promoting women’s participation in political leadership, through the quota system promoted by its National Gender Policy (NGP 2006) that stipulates 35% representation of women in all political leadership positions across the country. Moreover, Nigerian has signed unto regional and international treaties that provides for women’s participation in political leadership such as the Maputo Protocol and The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In Article 9, the Maputo Protocol provides women with the Right to Participation in the Political and Decision-Making Process. CEDAW in Article 7 provides the basis for realizing equal opportunities for male and female in political and public life, including the right to vote and to stand for election, as well as to hold public office at all levels of government.
The Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF) strongly condemns the act of denigrating women through online and offline hate speech that will only incite negative narratives and perpetrate violence against women. The social media community must desist from spreading hate speech against women, which only reinforces patriarchy in our society and fails to respect the rights of citizens. Such hate speech if not immediately redressed will only further incubate negative sentiments, and may be the tipping point which may implode gender based violence and discrimination in Nigeria which already struggles with this challenge in its public and private spheres. The government of Nigeria has a duty to fulfil its human rights obligations by ensuring the equitable treatment of women who make up about 50% of its population, and put an end to the impunity that empowers such narratives. In addition, the Nigerian Feminist Forum hereby clearly asks:
- That Nigerians desist from promoting hate speech ( both online and offline) that incite discrimination against women’s right to participate in political leadership
- That Nigerians understand that while they are correct to consider the right to freedom of religion and belief sacrosanct, such beliefs are personal, and end in the public space where the rights of others begin; they therefore cannot in anyway be a determining factor on national issues, especially when the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and other legal instruments have clearly defined our directive principles.
- Finally, we call on all Nigerians to channel their energies to supporting our fledgling democracy, and in turn our elected leaders henceforth, whether male or female, ‘to build a nation where peace and justice reigns’
Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF) Secretariat