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Nigerian lawmakers think paternity leave is a privilege men can’t afford yet

AP/Sunday Alamba
Newborn triplets Isaac, Treasure and Samuel sleep in a ward of the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. Amid the…
By Yomi Kazeem
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Fathers in Nigeria will not be taking in the joys of paternity leave anytime soon.

Lawmakers have shut down a bill to legalize optional paternity leave for male workers in private and public employment. The bill failed to get past a second reading. To become a law, the bill needed to pass the second reading, a committee review as well as a third reading before presidential assent.

Some lawmakers’ rejection of the bill was based on cultural nuances: with polygamy common in Nigeria, the possibility of a father taking paternity leave several times a year exists. It’s not the first time the lawmakers have stopped a gender equality-focused bill though. In March 2016, they stopped a bill looking to, among other things, end discrimination based on gender in politics, educations and employment.

It’s unlikely that Nigeria’s lawmakers consider paternity leave beyond the lenses of culture even though there’s growing evidence that paternity leave ensures better work-life balance for families. That understanding is more pronounced in Europe, home to several of the countries with the best paternity leave policies.

But the paternity leave apathy isn’t restricted to Nigeria alone: according to a March 2017 study by Pew Research Center, one in seven Americans say that men should not be able to take paternity leave at all.

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