1.0                                            INTRODUCTION


Men and women are entitled to the full protection of their rights because they are human beings.[1] At its most basic level, ‘human rights’ are safeguarded prerogative granted because a person is alive.[2] A right is therefore a claim to something (by the right of the holder) that can be exercised and enforced under a set of grounds or justification without interference from others.

The question of the ‘universal’ or relative character of the rights declared in the major instruments of the human rights movement has been a source of debate and advocacy. The contests between these positions took on renewed vigour as the human movement slowly developed and reneged on making specific provision on gender issues, significant development emerged over the decades between claims related with cultural relativism on one hand, and universalism on the other hand, as they relate to gender in different territories.[3]

The international human rights literature have conceptualized the problem of discrimination of women as involving self-determination. This research considers discrimination as resulting from creation, maintenance and perpetuation of structures of inequality against women as opposed to men. It also argues that the Nigerian government and human rights activists, by being more responsive to the international regimes of human rights, do not pay sufficient attention to indigenous philosophies, traditions and socio-cultural factors which hamper the effective actualization of rights to all human beings .

In Africa, the treaty that cursorily provides for the protection of reproductive and sexual rights is the African Charter on Human and People’s rights and the protocol to the African charter situates sexual health and rights within the recognition of women’s reproductive rights as human rights. The adoption of the protocol signified a renewed commitment to the advancement of women’s rights as human rights in African region and reinforces international law on women’s equality.

The ACHPR, since its ratification by the National Assembly in 1983 has been given binding effect by the constitution and has been recognized as almost inviolable, due largely to the fact that from it stemmed both the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, regarded as Chapter II rights which though non-justiciable in nature, cannot be overlooked, as well as the fundamental rights located under Chapter IV of the extant Nigerian constitution which are justiciable.

By virtue of this protocol, Nigerian women are guaranteed the right to dignity, the right to life, integrity and security of persons, freedom from harmful practices which negatively affect the human rights of women, equal rights in marriage, equal rights in cases of separation, divorce and annulment, the right to equal protection and benefit of the law, the right to participate in political and decision making process, the right to education and training, equal opportunity in career and work advancement, the rights to health including sexual and reproductive rights, the right to food and security, the right to adequate housing, right to a positive cultural context, right to a healthy and sustainable environment, right to sustainable development, widow’s rights, right to equitable share in inheritance, right of elderly women to special protection and freedom from violence, right of women in distress to special protection, and a right of remedy to any woman whose rights or freedom have been violated.

Consequently, all women (as men), all girls (as boys) are entitled to the enjoyment of all human rights affirmed, as such gender, custom or law cannot be used to validly deny this.[4]

Nigeria being a multi-ethnic nation had the challenge of recognizing the rights of women; this due to inherent varied cultures of her people, such cultures, with the effect of laws allowed for women to be treated as chattels which could be inherited but was prohibited from inheriting properties as well as being educated (in most parts); promoted and subjected them to various forms of discrimination and violation.

With the emergence of the Democratic constitution of 1960 which enshrined the fundamental rights which were to be enjoyed by every Nigerian subject to some derogation, women were accorded such rights by virtue of being human (even though the customs prevalent in rural areas still existed). Consequently, the 1999 constitution brought with it the inclusion of the right to own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria,[5] making women partakers of the right which is termed as a fundamental right by the Nigerian constitution.


In Nigeria, women still suffer infringements on their human rights. There are National and International legislation that aim at protecting and safeguarding women’s rights, but the problem lies in implementation and lack of political will on the part of government to pursue policies and programmes advancing women’s rights to their logical conclusion.

The statement of the problem in this research will show the factors which have strongly mitigated against the successful realization of the protection of women and their rights in Nigeria. Such problems include:

  1. Are the laws concerning women’s protection adequate and up to the task?
  2. How effective are the implementation of the laws vis-à-vis the prevalent challenges?
  • How these challenges to the effective actualization of women’s rights can be curbed?
  1. How the issue of gender can be replaced with equality?


(1) To examine the platform provided under the Nigerian law for the protection of women’s rights as well as to study the extent Nigeria has been able to measure up to international standards;

(2)    To evaluate the enforcement and implementation of such rights;

(3)    To explain how socio-cultural practices contribute to the abuse of women’s rights;

(4)    To examine the challenges affecting human rights of women in Nigeria as well as to recommend relevant suggestions for future protection of such rights.


This research primarily cuts across Nigeria as a nation. It focuses on the Nigerian law and International conventions applicable in Nigeria for the protection of women’s rights. It further examines the effect of negative socio-cultural practices prevalent in the different Nigerian societies and other challenges affecting the rights of women in Nigeria.


This research will show the rights which accrue to women in Nigeria and the effectiveness of the law in the protection of these rights. This research will review the international statutes as well as the Nigerian constitution as it pertains to the rights of women and the development, acceptance and adherence to such statutes in Nigeria.

This research is also necessary to show that socio-cultural practices like female genital mutilation, negative widowhood practices, child/early marriages as problems that violate women’s rights and therefore, women need protection by application, enforcement and implementation of legislations and policies on the issue.


The methodology for this research is doctrinal. Primary and secondary sources of information are used in this research. The primary sources of the doctrinal research includes International Conventions, the Nigerian Constitution, the Penal Code, the Labour Act, the Marriage Act, the Child Rights Act. The secondary sources includes texts, journals, law reports, articles and the internet.

[1] Okagbue I. Women’s Rights are Human rights. Nigerian institute of Advanced Legal studies,  Lagos, 1996  p.1

[2] Oyedele O. S. Women’s Rights in Africa: Myth or Reality, University of Benin Law Journal, vol. 9(1) 2006 p.28

[3] See Steiner Henry J. and Alson P. , International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics and Morals, London, Oxford University press, 2000, p. 312

[4] Obiaraeri N.O. Human Rights in Nigeria – Millennium Perspective; Lagos perfect concepts, 2001, p.444

[5] Section 43 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as Amended.