A civil society group, Voices for Change (V4C), has condemned social discrimination against women.It said women should be accorded the same rights their male counterparts enjoy.

At a seminar on gender equality for traditional rulers in Lagos, the group said the customs and traditions which relegate women to the background should be done away with.

According to V4C, the subjugation of women by traditional institutions, which for instance, makes it impossible for a woman to be appointed a monarch, must be outlawed.

The event’s facilitator, V4C’s Key Influencer Lead, Denis Onoise, said it was organised to explore the critical role men, such as the monarchs, can play in fostering gender equality.

The forum revealed deeply entrenched beliefs among traditionalists that women have limited rights. Asked if it were easier to be a man in Nigeria than a woman, the monarchs except one said it was easier to be a man. Asked if men needed more sex than women, all of them also agreed.

They all agreed that gender equality would come at a high cost to men because they will be unwilling to relinquish their privileges.

Asked if a woman can be on Oba in Lagos, for instance, majority of the monarchs said: “Impossible!” “Abomination”! They said the only time it happened was in Ijebuland during a war and because all the men were at the battlefront.

But asked if women make better parents than men, the monarchs all agreed, saying it was because women spent more time at home.

The monarchs, however, agreed that women should be given more rights rather than being shut out of opportunities.

Onoise said women should be carried along and allowed to make input when developmental decisions are made.

“Gender equality is not about women taking over. We’re not saying women should take over, but it’s for all to work together towards a more just society. At the end of the day, women are the one suffering and that must end.

“Gender equality means that men and women enjoy the same status. They both share the same opportunities for realising their human rights and potential to contribute and benefit from all spheres of society – economic, political, social, cultural,” he said.

According to Onoise, cultural and religious values play a key role in determining discriminatory attitudes and behaviors. He recalled the Biblical story of an adulterous woman who was to be stoned to death while no punishment was prescribed for the man who committed the adultery with her.

He said there is the need to encourage gender equitable behaviors, such as men and women making joint decisions about their health, men respecting a woman’s right to demand for or say no to sex, men and women settling differences without violence, and men and women sharing responsibility for parenting and care for others.

“The roles of men and women are changing in our society. It has slowly become less difficult to step outside of the box. Still, it is hard for men and women to live outside of these boxes,” adding that jettisoning strongly held beliefs will make it easier for men and women “to live outside of the boxes.”

Permanent Secretary, Local Government and Community Affairs, Lagos State, Mr Gafar Sanuth, said the state remains one of the few that has had successive women deputy-governors.

“The issue of gender equality has been in practice for years in Lagos,” he said, urging the monarchs to accord women more recognition in their domains.

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