A bill to amend the Police Act 2004 by expunging the gender-discriminatory provisions on Thursday passed second reading in the Senate.
This followed the presentation of the bill by the sponsor, Senator Ezenwa Onyewuchi (PDP-Imo East) during the plenary.
Leading the debate on the general principles of the bill, Onyewuchi said the bill was read for the first time on October 10.
He said the bill sought to expunge the provisions of regulations 122, 123, 124 and 127 from the principal act.
Onyewuchi noted that Regulation 122 restricts female Police officers assigned to the General Duties Branch of the Nigeria Police Force to telephone, clerical and office orderly duties.
“Regulation 123 prohibits women Police from drilling under arms; Regulation 124 mandates female Police officers to apply for permission to marry, while the intending fiancé is also investigated for criminal records.
“It also stipulates that a Police woman who is single at the time of enlistment must spend three years in service before applying for permission to marry,” he said.
The lawmaker enumerated the duties of the Police to include prevention and detection of crime, apprehension of offenders, preservation of law and order among others.
“Analysis of the Police Act and other regulatory/policy documents governing the internal and external workings of the Nigeria Police Force reveals a preponderance of discriminatory regulations and workplace practices that reinforce gender discrimination.
“Many of the Police regulations, particularly regulations 122, 123, 124 and 127, are overtly discriminatory to female Police officers,” he said.
He further said that specifically, the current regulations stated that: “A woman Police officer who is desirous of marrying must apply in writing to the Commissioner of Police for the State Police Command in which she is serving, requesting permission to marry.
“She is to also give the name, address and occupation of the person she intends to marry.”
He explained that there was need to expunge the regulations, as it was not reasonably justifiable in [a] democratic state like Nigeria which had domesticated the African Charter on Human and People Rights.
Supporting the bill, Senator Istifanus Gyang (PDP-Plateau North) said that the bill was most welcomed, “as it widens the scope of mainstreaming women rights in the country’s statutes.”
He said that exposure to discrimination was one of the factors that was used in rating and ranking the country on the index of best and worst countries for a woman to live in.
“It is sad that women’s rights, such as protection from sexual harassment, right to vote and be voted for, and right to hold public office are, today, a reality.
“The quest for gender equality and equity in our clime will be further strengthened by the passage of this bill,” he said.
On his part, Senate Minority Leader, Eyinnaya Abaribe, said that amending the law would give dignity to the female folk.
“It is very strange to find such provisions in the Police Act, which is discriminatory in the sense that the male counterparts don’t have the same restrictions,” he noted.
Also, Senator Stella Oduah (PDP-Anambra North) urged the senators to give the bill accelerated second reading.
Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC-Kogi West) said Nigeria was a democratic society and there should not be any provision that makes women to be seen as second-class citizen.
In his remark, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, referred the bill to the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, and asked it to report back to the chamber in four weeks.