The Women Empowerment & Legal Aid (WELA), a group led by Funmi Falana, human rights lawyer, has condemned the detention of Sofiyat Akinlabi for accepting a corps member’s marriage proposal.
Akinlabi and the corps member went viral for engaging in lovey-dovey moments at the Yikpata orientation camp of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Kwara.
The army had in a statement on Sunday said the soldier was detained for violating the military’s rules of engagement.
But in a statement on Monday, Falana, the group’s chairperson, said Akinlabi did not violate the army’s regulation on marriage for its personnel.
In the statement addressed to Faruk Yahaya, the chief of army staff (COAS), the human rights lawyer also called on the military to respect Akinlabi’s decision to accept the marriage proposal.
“Since Private Sofiyat Akinlabi was reported to have accepted the marriage proposal from a male youth corps member she has not contravened the regulation on restriction of marriage for three years,” it said.
Funmi, who is wife to Femi Falana, the senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), argued that the army’s policy on public display of amorous relationship and marriage was discriminatory since male soldiers who engaged in similar act do not get sanctioned.
Buttressing her point, Falana cited a similar case between WELA and the attorney general of the federation (AGF) in 2015 wherein the federal high court held that the application of such policy against only female police officers was “unconstitutional.”
“The restriction of a female military personnel from contracting any marriage for three years upon enlistment which is not applicable to male military personnel is illegal and unconstitutional,” it added.
“In view of the fact that male soldiers have not been penalised for involving themselves in a public display of amorous relationship in full military uniform the threat to sanction Private Sofiyat Akinlabi is discriminatory. Some of the photographs of male soldiers involved in a public display of amorous relationship are attached.
“In view of the foregoing, we urge you to use your good offices to order the release of Private Sofiyat Akinlabie from further custody. Furthermore, her decision to marry the male youth corps member should be respected as both of them are entitled to freedom of association guaranteed by Section 40 of the constitution.”
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