Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Institutions gets Full Attention
Cases of Sexual Harassment in tertiary institutions have existed for so long. It is not a new phenomenon. However, with the mechanism of the social media in place, the level of awareness has grown by leaps and bounds. The BBC investigative documentary blew it up and Sofadondo, as an organization that campaigns against “Sex for Marks” and “Marks for Sex” continues to lend out its voice daily across Nigeria.
With the sexual harassment bill scaling through a second reading on the floor of the Senate, this menace in our universities is getting attention. The bills were sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege and Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya.
The proposed bill, which has 27 clauses, covers the issue of “Sex for Marks” and “Marks for sex” since it defines sexual offences as including sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or a prospective student.
This second reading is expected to send some warning message to lecturers, educators and students who are perpetrators of “Sex for Marks” and “Marks for Sex”. No fine will save anyone who is convicted for the offence. As proposed, the least number of years in prison is 5 years. This could go up to 14-year jail term for offenders in tertiary institutions
Specific behaviours have been identified as sexual harassment and for this bill, it is not a matter of if there was consent or not. If you are involved in the matter, you will be penalized.
The definition for sexual harassment also includes “sending by hand or courier or electronic or any other means naked or sexually explicit pictures or videos or sex-related objects to a student, and whistling or winking at a student or screaming, exclaiming, joking or making sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique or stalking a student”.
Once the specifics of the proposed bill is understood, both lecturers and students will be on guard in terms of what they choose to do and how they choose to behave.
With this bill, adults will learn to control the kind of comments they make or the names they call others. A case where a lecturer freely calls single ladies around him “wedded wife” or “my wife” in the name of a joke will no longer be acceptable.
The 27 clauses of the proposed bill cover the entire journey that a possible sexual harassment case could go through; from the nature of relationship to issues of false complaint to victimization. These clauses inclusively provide uniform statutory frameworks for all institutions to follow on sexual harassment. This is because university managements would be expected to put structures in place, committees, disciplinary procedures and reporting processes to follow up on its implementation.
Just like with the campaigns of Sofadondo, the proposed bill goes in both ways; lecturers demanding for sex and students making sexual advances or who seduce lecturers. The proposed bill has both cases in view. If as lecturer you feel your character is being defamed, then stand up and file for defamation.
When this bill is passed, Sofadondo, as an organization, will have a specific law to hold on to in its work within Tertiary institutions. With the bill having a specific focus, this will hopefully strengthen its application and implementation.
Linda Asimole Ellah
Linda Ellah is a development worker and Founder/Coordinator of The Living Woman, an organization that help women and girls focus on their Personal Growth and Fulfilment of Purpose. Her passion and Life Purpose is developing women and young ladies to attain their fullest potential.