This article examines the binary of culture/religion/tradition and modern/secular/foreign and its impact on women’s human rights struggles in particular in northern Nigeria. This binary is commonly perpetuated by state and non-state actors, including politicians, community leaders and religious leaders, who weaponise culture, religion and tradition to resist the struggle for gender equality.
The article highlights how progress around some concerns, such as rape of young girls, has occurred concurrently with attacks on other rights, particularly sexual and reproductive rights including abortion and sex outside marriage, and of those with non-normative sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions. This hardening of attitudes and narrowing of what is seen as permissible not only obscures the diversity of how people lived and thought in the past but is also far from the reality of how people live their lives presently. It further reflects the increased influence of religious fundamentalism and conservatism in northern Nigeria.