Feminists over the years have been advocating for the equal rights of men and women. They seek to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. All over the world they have campaigned and continued to campaign for women’s rights, including the right to vote, to hold public office, to work, to earn fair wages or equal pay, to own property, to receive education, to enter contracts, to have equal rights within marriage, and to have maternity leave. Feminists have also worked to promote bodily autonomy and integrity, and to protect women and girls from rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence. Their campaigns are generally considered to be a main force behind major historical societal changes for women’s rights, particularly in the West, where they are near-universally credited with achieving women’s suffrage, gender neutrality, reproductive rights for women, and the right to enter into contracts and own property.
Although feminist advocacy is, and has been, mainly focused on women’s rights, some feminists, including Bell Hooks, argue for the inclusion of men’s liberation within its aims because men are also harmed by traditional gender roles. Feminist theory, which emerged from feminist movements, aims to understand the nature of gender inequality by examining women’s social roles and lived experience; it has developed theories in a variety of disciplines in order to respond to issues concerning gender.
“We should all be Feminist’’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie also explains more on feminism as it relates with gender equality. Important quotes from her book; “Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.” Also; “Some people ask: ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights or something like that?’ Because that would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded.
It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.” This has been debated for centuries now, if women have equal rights as men do in terms of inheritance especially in the Eastern part of Nigeria. They are born in the same way so I wonder why so much debate. Both male and female need financial securities in the same way. In most states in the Eastern part of Nigeria, the Igbo customary law for succession excludes female offspring from inheriting part of their father’s property or deceased spouse property. Although, both the Lagos High Court and the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court found that the Igbo inheritance rules that exclude women from inheritance violate the country’s 1999 Constitution, confirming the decisions of the Lagos High Court and the Court of Appeal. Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, one of the five justices who heard the case, delivered the Court’s opinion in which he stated that no matter the circumstances of the birth of a female child, such a child is entitled to an inheritance from her late father’s estate. Consequently, the Igbo Customary Law, which disentitles a female child from partaking in the sharing of her deceased father’s estate, is in breach of Section 42(1) and (2) of the Constitution, a fundamental rights provision guaranteed to every Nigerian. This is still not practiced. Even some Igbo cultures deprive the wife from inheriting her deceased husband’s property leaving her to suffer in poverty.
Over the years, women have contributed to the development of the society, in some cases more than the men, but when it comes to inheritance they are sidelined. This, naturally, makes them feel inferior to men, which is very unfair and inhuman. In a conversation with two of my colleagues (male), they believed strongly that women should not be given much power. On the issue of inheritance they weren’t in support of a father leaving inheritance for a female child saying the woman would eventually in her own marriage to her husband not be tolerant and totally submissive to her husband due to financial freedom. So invariably the male gender would keep oppressing the female gender, even subjecting her to physical abuse while she is forced to remain in an unhealthy environment. But in the western part of Nigeria more respect is given to the women in terms of having a share of their fathers’ inheritance compared to the Eastern part of Nigeria.
Being of Igbo extraction, I personally don’t agree with the Igbo customary law of succession, it deprives me of my fundamental human right. If the male gender feels they should inherit properties because they feel they have more responsibilities, I would suggest that responsibility in a family should be shared equally as well as inheritance. No one should feel deprived or cheated because of gender.
Since death can come at any time, the necessity, and not the desirability, of making a Will cannot be over emphasized especially, in the light of our very precarious environment and local customs. At least making a Will would in a long way suppress injustice to the female gender in terms of inheritance.