by Jumoke Simi
Ever wondered why law enforcement agencies refuse to allow women to stand or be sureties for arrested persons? Do you also ever wondered how life would have been for women if they must present written consent from their husbands before applying for international passport?
Before 2009, the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) required married women to obtain written consents from their husbands before applying for international passport.
NIS claimed it was inline with its administrative policy, irrespective of how badly the so called policy violated fundamental human rights of married women. So, most married women that obtained International Passports before 2009 submitted written consents from their husbands.
Since change can start with one person, Dr. Priye Iyalla-Amadi (wife of popular author- Elechi Amadi) challenged the NIS at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt on their so called policy.
Her legal team argued that the policy was contrary to fundamental human rights of married women, since no person is to be discriminated against because of her sex. It is not a discrimination on marriage (since married men were not required to present written consent from their wives) rather it was a discrimination on sex, simply for being a woman.
The legal team of NIS argued that married women were equated to children and as such required consent of the heads of their families.
NIS justified the requirement by arguing that, “married women are classified alongside with minors by the government as persons who require consent from the head of the family”.
NIS further argued that the requirement for consent of the husband was put in place to “perpetuate the authority of the man over his wife, no matter the status she had attained in the society”.
They also stated that the requirement was set to “avoid unnecessary breakdown of the marriage institution in the country.”
As expected, the Federal High Court Justice, G. K. Olotu delivered a reassuring judgment on June 15 2009, reiterating supremacy of the constitution and that the so called policy of NIS was archaic and a violation of human rights.
Anyway, Justice G.K. Olotu, the presiding judge of the Federal High court delivered a reassuring judgment on June 15 2009, that has remained a source of exhilaration to every Nigerian woman.
The court threw out as unconstitutional the entrenched age-old oddity that required married women to obtain their husband’s consent before acquiring or renewing their international passports.
In her verdict, Justice G.K. Olotu reportedly said: “This kind of policy has no place in 21st century Nigeria.”
Since 2009 till date, there is no known report, that the celebrated judgment of the Federal High Court has been appealed against by the NIS. So, NIS is by all standards and measures bound by the said judgement.
With the said judgment it is expected that NIS no longer requests married women to obtain consent from their husbands for anything.
By the way, on the first question above, on women and sureties, there is no policy or law in Nigeria that stops or prohibits women from standing as Sureties in police stations and any other law enforcement agency.
It is the right of a woman to always be treated equally without any form of discrimination. Where a woman is discriminated against because of her sex, her human right is violated and she has every right to go to court to seek reliefs.
Today, we remember and celebrate Dr. Priye Iyalla-Amadi…