Why Should Female Police Officers Need Permission to Marry?
The reported move by the Senate to amend certain provisions of the Police Regulations which require female police officers to obtain official permission before they can marry, would ordinarily be welcomed by advocates of gender equality, where that move, strictly speaking, not ultra vires the National Assembly. This is because, the said Regulations were not directly enacted by the National Assembly, but rather, by the President, admittedly pursuant to powers conferred on him under Section 46 of the Police Act, which was enacted by the Assembly.
To that extent, short of amending that enabling provision in the Act, the National Assembly would be over-reaching itself, if it purports to amend the affected Regulations directly. See ATT-GEN. OF BENDEL STATE v ATT. GEN. OF THE FEDERATION (1981) 10 S.C. 131, where the Apex Court held that: “under a Constitution conferring specific powers, a particular power must be granted, otherwise, it cannot be exercised”. Accordingly, by virtue of Section 12(1)(b) of the Interpretation Act, only the President can amend the Regulations directly. Be that as it may, however, an analysis of the offensive Regulations is worth the effort, and they are undertaken below. (Note: an abridged version was previously published on the 10th day of October, 2017).
Rules for Enlistment into the Police The relevant gender-based rules for enlisting into the Police are Regulations 72(2) and 188-120 of the Nigeria Police Regulations 1968. Apart from Regulation 118(g), the same requirements broadly apply to male and female enrolees in the Force. Those exceptions, however, are all-important, as they provide that:
“The prescribed qualifications for a woman candidate seeking enlistment in the police force shall be as follows: -
(g) Marital Status – must be unmarried”
Conditions of Service of Female Police Officers It appears that the Regulations assume that, female police officers are only suitable for “soft” or “non-combat” duties or roles, which involve minimal physical effort or exertion. This seems to be the intention behind Regulation 122 which provides that: “Women police officers recruited to the General Duties Branch of the Force may, in order to relieve male police officers from these duties, be employed in any of the following duties, namely(a)Clerical duties; (b)Telephone duties and (c)Office orderly duties”.
Curiously, even though Regulation 121 provides that women police officers are to be employed in duties which are connected with women and children - such as crowd control, searching, escorting and guarding of female prisoners in police stations - Regulation 123 precludes such officers from being “called upon to drill under arms or to take part in any baton or riot exercise”- even if, presumably, women are among the rioters; this seems odd.
Furthermore, apart from Regulation 127, which provides that an unmarried female police officer who becomes pregnant shall be discharged from the Force, Regulation 128 is also something of a curiosity, as it provides that: “A woman police officer whilst in uniform shall not - (a)Wear face powder or lipstick, or wear nail varnish except those of a neutral colour; or
(b)Wear any article of jewellery other than a wedding ring, or an engagement ring or a wrist watch; or
(c)Dress her hair in such fashion that it falls over the uniform collar; the hair, if long, is to be pinned or plaited over the top of the head, or if worn in short plaits, the plaits are to be tucked under the uniform cap”.
Beyond the foregoing, I believe that, a far more worrisome provision is Regulation 124 which stipulates that: “A woman police officer who is desirous of marrying, must first apply in writing to the Commissioner of Police for the State Police Command in which she is serving, requesting permission to marry and giving the name, address and occupation of the person she intends to marry. Permission will be granted for the marriage if the intended husband is of good character, and the woman officer had served the force for a period of not less than three years”.
I believe that this and other provisions of the Regulations referred to above, are unacceptable violations of the right of female police officers to freedom from discrimination under Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution, as well as the right to equal protection of the law under Article III (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples
Rights, which provide as follows, respectively: -
(1). A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not by reason only that he is such a person:
(a) Be subjected either expressly by, or in practical application of any law in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject; or
(b) Be accorded, either expressly by, or in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions”
- “Every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law” .
Import of these Rights Starting with the Constitution, it is clear that Section 42(1) thereof is not absolute, as it is qualified by subsection (3) thereof, which provides, inter alia, that: “Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that it imposes restrictions with respect to the appointment of any person under the State or as a member of the armed forces of the Federation or a member of the Nigeria Police Force or to an office in the service of a body corporate established directly by any law in force in Nigeria”.
I, however, believe that, the proviso only applies, inter alia, to restrictions with respect to appointments into the Police. These, in my view, include those relating to the ages and physical dimensions of male and female applicants, medical examinations of female applicants and witnesses to the initial enlistment interviews of female applicants, as provided by Regulations 72(2)(a)&(c) and 188(a),119(b)and 120, respectively. In other words, any restrictions which are not related to appointments or applicable at the point of entry into the Force, are unconstitutional. I submit that, this applies to the requirement that female police officers seek the consent of Commissioners of Police before they can marry.
This is simply unacceptable, as it cannot be rationalised on the basis of any legitimate concerns for optimal job performance, public interest or even national security.
The glaring question is: why should male police officers be free to marry without let or hindrance, while their female counterparts, cannot? Why should prospective husbands of female police officers, be assessed in terms of their character and occupations, whilst future wives of male police officers are exempt from same? Why must a female police officer be compelled to serve the Force for at least three years before she is ‘qualified’ to marry, whilst her male counterparts are under no such restriction? In my humble opinion, those restrictions are simply unjustifiable and unconstitutional. See ASIKA v ATUANYA (2008) 17 NWLR pt.1117 pg. 484.
Apart from the constitutional right to freedom from discrimination, I believe that the aforesaid Regulations, also violate the right to equal protection of the law under Article III (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. See NNPC v FAWEHINMI (1998) 7NWLR pt 559 pg 598 @ 616 and IGP v ANPP (2007) 18 NWLG pt. 1066 pg. 457@ 500c.
Conclusion It is unbelievable that in the 21st century, female Nigerian police officers are subjected to the foregoing disabilities and restrictions, which are inapplicable to their male counterparts. It is particularly hard to fathom why they need to submit particulars of their future spouses for vetting as to his character, and thus, suitability. One would have thought such choices are entirely personal, and thus, should be left to the sole discretion of the parties. The obvious question is: if the choice of spouse of a police officer presumably has security implications, should such considerations not apply to both sexes, without discrimination?
To the extent that they don’t, does it suggest that men pose a greater security risk than women? How valid is this assumption? Is there any empirical evidence to back it up, or is it based, perhaps, on the realities of a bygone age, at the time (in 1968) when the Regulations were enacted? If that notion was valid then, is that still the case? It seems that this requirement is a historical relic, which has no place in the present age. What is good for goose ought to be sauce for the gander; if male Police officers are not beholden to their superiors in their choice of spouses, neither should their female counterparts. This should also apply to the timing of their weddings, that is, it should be without regard to their dates of enlistment into the Force.