Customary laws have provided a framework for the exclusion of women from public life. Women were executed from the professions and from other forms of employment. The social structure, placed women’s role in the home, and subordinated their position to that of fathers and husbands. Women did not have an autonomous legal status, rather their position was subsumed within the family unit and their interests identified with the interests of the family. Through the course of this century, this position has gradually changed. Women have been allowed near autonomy as individuals.
The barriers to employment have been vi LAW 100 INTRODUCTION TO LAW removed, and laws have been put in place to try to reinforce the principle of equal opportunity
Children and the Courts
The legal system has also had to adapt to the needs of children to a much greater extent than hitherto. The awareness in recent years of the extent of child sexual assault, and the public concern about the issue, has led to a considerable increase in the numbers of prosecutions for sexual offences against children, questions have been raised whether or not there should be a reduction in the age at which children might be called to give evidence.
In turn, this has led to greater attention being paid to the needs of children as witnesses. The laws of evidence concerning situations when children are deemed incompetent to give evidence, require a reviour particularly the provisions which require that their evidence be corroborated in order to be accepted.
Court is nonetheless a frightening experience for many children. It is an environment which I quite alien from the world of home and school which children are sued to, and they often have misconceptions about the process, for example, that the judge will punish them if they lie in court. Many child witnesses are particularly afraid of seeing the perpetrator in the courtroom, and for this, and other reasons, steps have been taken in most Nigeria jurisdictions to make the process of giving evidence an easier one for children
Multiculturalism and the Legal Tradition
The challenge of inclusion is also the challenge of adapting the legal system to the demands of a multicultural society. The Nigerian government’s official policy on multiculturalism. One of the government’s law by this translates into systematically examining the implicit cultural assumptions of the law and the legal system to identify the manner in which they may unintentionally act to disadvantage certain
Making Legal Rights Effective
The challenge of inclusion is the challenge of making the law more representative of the character and composition of the population. But beyond the need for diversity is a need to lower the barriers to justice which inhibit a large proportion of the population from exercising their legal rights. Without access to justice, there is a gulf between the law on the books and the law in action.
In many legal systems, this gulf can be vast. Many totalitarian regimes, both past and present, offer examples of legal system in which fundamental human rights are guaranteed on paper, but are violated in practice. Yet even in countries with traditions of democratic xii LAW 100 INTRODUCTION TO LAW government, a similar discrepancy between theory and practice can occur.
Laws can be passed which are presented as the solution to social problems, but which only provide rights on paper without changing institutions and practices in a way which will make those rights effective. Legislation is cheap. Government can point to the legislation when claiming compliance with international conventions or when responding to criticism. Yet sometimes the rhetoric of the law is not supported by the resources necessary to give effect to the stated intentions of the legislators. The law on the books justifies inaction, precisely because it gives the appearance of action