The role of religion in women’s campaigns for legal reform in Nigeria
Legal reform is necessary but not sufficient to realise women’s rights. This paper compares two campaigns for legal reform in Nigeria: attempts to domesticate the UN Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in federal law, which resulted in defeat of the bill in 2007, and a successful campaign to introduce legislation to prevent the mistreatment of widows in Anambra State. It considers the role of religion in the campaigns, by examining how the women’s movement engaged with religious actors. The research shows that religious beliefs, discourses, and actors had a significant influence on the outcomes of the campaigns, in part because of the content of the proposed legislation, but also because of the strategies adopted by the campaigners and the interests of the religious bodies concerned. Despite the implication of religion in gender inequality, these cases show that religious teachings, leaders, and organisations can be allies rather than obstacles in achieving progressive social change.
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