An average African man would always want his wife to be at home all day. They would rather prefer that the women stay home and take care of the kids and perform other marital responsibilities than they working under an employment. Frankly speaking, the platitudinous notion that: “A Woman Education Ends in the Kitchen”, is still an extant practice in other regions of the world. Till today, there are about 18 countries in the world where the husbands have the legal right to prevent thier wives from working. And a few others that prohibit women from registering a company. In countries such as Cameroon, Iran, Guinea, Niger, United Arab Emirates among others, women need to seek the permission of their husbands before been allowed to be employed in any organisation. Still in this 21st century some countries still ban women from certain job and industries such as mining, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, transportation, energy and waters and so on.
In Russia for instance, women are not allowed to drive trains or trucks or even to a pilot a ship. In Pakistan too, only men are allowed to fix machine, as the law states that women cannot actually fix moving moving parts of a machine in a cotton – open factory. In China as well, women cannot mine. In fact, the China Mining and Technology University has a Male-Only entrance policy, as it considered unsuitable for women according to their labour law. Similarly in Madagascar, women are not allowed to distribute any published materials such as literature, posters and other related materials owing to moral codes, as doing so is punishable under the criminal law. Also, in United Arab Emirates, women are not allowed to perform any work that involves handling things like animal droppings, poultry, blood, fertilizers and toxic chemicals.
Moreover, this practice is not in tandem with the Nigeria employment system. The Nigeria Labour law provides that women can be employed in any public and private organisations and as well be on special duties at night.
Howbeit, for the purpose of this article we shall be pin pointing the position of the Nigeria law as regards the employment of women in night duties. The Economist theory sees Industrial Revolution as the origin of the practice of preventing women from working at nights.
The big question that begs for an answer is whether or not a woman can go to work and return the next day having been on night duty in Nigeria? To answer this question it would be best if we first narrowly define the term “Night” to our context. According to The Labour Act, “night” means a period of atleast Ten-Eleven consecutive hours including the interval between Ten O’clock in the evening and Five o’clock in the morning; 10:00PM to 5:00AM this is in respect to those employed in an industrial undertakings. And for those employed in an agricultural undertakings “night” refers to a period of atleast Nine consecutive hours, including the interval between nine o’clock in the evening and four o’clock in the morning; 9:00PM to 4:00AM.
From the standpoint of the law, no woman shall be employed on night duty (within the above hours) either in a public, private or agricultural undertaking or any branch thereof. For instance again, in Malaysia women are not permitted to transport goods and passenger at night. The only category of night work which women are allowed as an exemption to this law in Nigeria are those employed as nurses, both in a public or private organisation and those women holding responsible positions of management who are not ordinary engaged in manual labour. This set of night workers are said to be on life saving engagements and thier skils or expertise could be needed at any point in time even in the night hours or emegency periods. While other profession or job which do not fall under this category are prohibited from night work owing to some adverse and cataclysmic factors such as :
(1) The marital responsibilities a woman owes to her family (husband and children) this cannot be sacrificed on the alter of night works.
(2) The security risk and threat to life encountered at night which would expose them to immense danger.
(3) The incessant rape, assault and molestation that comes along with the witching-hours of the nights.
(4) And a possibility that a lack of trust would ensue between both couples and this may therefore lead to divorce or a broken home, among others.
Any deviation from the above position of the law or where a woman is employed at night wherein the employment is not categorized under the exemptions to the above provisons of the law, then it shall be a good defense to prove to the satisfaction of the court handling the proceedings the following circumstances: (a) That the night work in question was due to an interruption of work which it was impossible to foresee and which is not of a recurring character; or (b) that the night work in question has to do with raw material or materials in course of treatment which are subject to rapid deterioration, and it was necessary to preserve such materials from certain loss. It is only when this defense are raised or when the employment itself falls under the exempted categories of night duties that it shall be considerate unlesss, it shall be seen as an offense and an express violation of the provisions of the Nigeria labour and employment law and therefore any party who falls victim of such violation can seek redress in an Industrial Court of Law for damages or compensation.
The certainty that the Nigeria labour laws exists in straight line for men and a mace for women as they are prohibited from night work doesn’t serve as a basis or bedrock for gender inequality or discrimination as seen in other parts of the world. It rather aims at providing a bulwark and tower of protection for the Nigeria women from the evil of the nox and a safe haven for breeding perfect lasting and balanced marriages amidst employment in our uncommon society.
Section 55(1-3)of the Nigeria Labour Act 2004.)
About the Author
OKWUOKIE EMEKA LAWRENCE is
A passionate sophomore law undergraduate from the University of Calabar,Calabar Nigeria. He has a penchant for Human Right Advocacy, Labour and Commercial law.
He can be reached via -08130356783 or