Citizen is a column that explains how the government’s policies fucks citizens and how we can unfuck ourselves.
If there is anything our dear country Nigeria is known for, it is establishing laws that are either too dehumanizing to believe they actually exist or completely unsuitable for the times we are living in. With many laws in Nigeria yet to be revised despite the institutional harm they cause, we thought it would be great to look at some of these laws we wish would be revised or completely gotten rid of.
- Husbands Being Legally Permitted To Physically Abuse Their Wives
We promise you we had the same reaction as you probably do now when we came across this law, but it actually exists. Although this law which permits husbands to mete out physical abuse on their wives as a form of punishment enshrined in the penal code, Section 55, and only applicable in the Northern part of the country, it is still a law that has to go for the obvious reason that nobody should have the right to mete out physical abuse on another citizen, talk less of their partner. Also striking is that this law contradicts several fundamental human rights, like the right to dignity, the right to personal liberty amongst others.
- The Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill (SSMPA)
Yes, the one that was passed by former Nigerian president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on January 7, 2014. The one that has also made homophobia legal in Nigeria and essentially criminalized every single part of how LGBTQ+ Nigerians exist in Nigeria. The law not only bars marriage between people of the same sex, it also criminalizes public affection between people of the same gender, prohibits LGBTQ+ Nigerians from gathering or forming associations amongst a few other prohibitions. Not only do these laws affect LGBTQ+ persons in Nigeria, but they are also so vague that they can be applied to anyone who is deemed queer. And it goes without saying that all those prohibitions directly contradict the fundamental rights to assembly, personal liberty, pursuit of happiness, freedom of expression, you name it.
- Attempting Suicide Being Illegal In Nigeria.
Under section 327 of the criminal code act, “Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for one year.” This law has been effected a few times, notably in 2018 when a man, Ifeanyi Ugokwe who tried to take his own life was arrested and put in jail for a few weeks. Criminalizing people’s autonomy over their life does sound ridiculous and definitely goes against one’s fundamental rights to personal liberty and right to privacy. Another interesting fact is that Britain, from where this anti-suicide law was adapted, have changed their anti-suicide laws since 1961.
4. The Practice Of Witchcraft Being Criminalized.
Section 210 of the Criminal Code Act stipulates who by their actions suggests to being a witch or possessing witchcraft powers is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.
Read part of the law below: Any person who-
(a) by his statements or actions represents himself to be a witch or to have the power of witchcraft; or
(b) accuses or threatens to accuse any person with being a witch or with having the power of witchcraft; or
(c) makes or sells or uses, or assists or takes part in making or selling or using, or has in his possession or represents himself to be in possession of any juju, drug or charm which is intended to be used or reported to possess the power to prevent or delay any person from doing an act which such person has a legal right to do, or to compel any person to do an act which such person has a legal right to refrain from doing, or which is alleged or reported to possess the power of causing any natural phenomenon or any disease or epidemic..”
This is a huge mind your speech moment for us.
5. Nigerian Women Not Being Able To Extend Their Citizen To A Foreign Partner.
Before you say anything, yes, this like many other discriminatory laws in Nigeria does not apply to Nigerian men. These laws can be found under sections 26 and 27 of the Nigerian constitution. Not only do these laws reduce women’s autonomy and erase their humanity, but it is also downright reductive and has no place in our world today.
These laws might seem ridiculous and archaic, but they have lasting and continuous effects on the lives of the people concerned and it is something for all of us to think about as we make our way to a fair and balanced nation.