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10 Jun 2016

S*xual Harassment ‎Bill A Step In The Right Direction

by Cynthia Ferdinand
The history of s*xual harassment dates back to the pre-colonial era when women were accorded little or no rights whatsoever - they were often married out against their wish, sacrificed as virgins or married to deities where they became ready s*xual preys to the chief priests or custodians of such deities. 

While these repressive and degrading habits have abated following the introduction of Western education, it is unfortunate that the inhuman practice has not only crept into our citadels of learning but has continued to assume worrisome proportions to the consternation of parents and education authorities in the country alike.

The effects of incessant s*xual harassment of students in higher institutions 
cannot be over-emphasized as it has continued to militate against the attainment of the educational vision and objectives of many a female folk in the country.

There have been overwhelming narratives on s*xual harassment by victims such that researchers of international repute have described Nigerian tertiary institutions as s*x colonies were r*pe and other forms of coerced copulation and s*xual intimacy are practiced without sanctions.

To many young Nigerians, especially female students in tertiary institutions, s*xual harassment is something of a norm. United Nations (UN) reports state that “one out of three women experience s*xual harassment in their lifetime”. According to the European Union Commission recommendation: "There are also adverse consequences arising from harassment for employers. In general terms, s*xual harassment is an obstacle to the proper integration of women into the labour market."

It is regrettable that over the years, aside provisions against r*pe and other untoward s*xual behaviours in both the Criminal and Penal Codes, there have been no clear cut and effective legislation aimed at checkmating or eliminating this abhorrent practice from our institutions of higher learning.

As a consequence, it is today difficult to explicitly articulate what constitutes s*xual harassment and what sanctions there are to deter male predators. Another factor that has helped sustained this barbaric tendency, is the seeming societal indifference to the plight of victims due to discrepancies in views as to what actually constitute s*xual harassment against the opposite s*x.

No matter the view we want to give to the menace of harassment, its cumulative, demoralizing and harmful effect cannot be glossed over. It is unarguable that many academic careers of female students have been disrupted and frustrated and led inexorably to depression, ostracism, mental anguish and loss of self esteem on the part of victims of s*xual harassment.

Against this backdrop, it is little wonder then that the move by the 8th Senate to put in place legislation to both deter and punish perpetrators has continued to excite female undergraduates across the country in no unmistakable terms. For instance, the euphoria that greeted the Second Reading of the Bill was recently given expression by members of the Nigerian Female Students Association (NFSA) who stormed the National Assembly in solidarity when the S*xual Harassment Bill scaled second reading on the floor of the Senate.

The Bill which proposes a five-year jail term for lecturers found guilty of having s*xually harassed a female student, was sponsored by Senator representing Delta Central, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege (Labour Party) and co-sponsored by 57 other Senators. Omo-Agege had while leading the debate on the landmark Bill, stated that "with this Bill we are refusing to abdicate our roles as leaders in the face of repugnant threats to our shared values. It is a warning to perpetrators that an end is near." 

The Bill when passed into law would serve a consolation to victims of harassment and hope to the younger generation as it criminalizes the reprehensible act in a wider scope by not limiting it to only school environments because harassment has no borders - it can take place in homes, public spaces, etc...

- Cynthia Ferdinand
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Item Reviewed: S*xual Harassment ‎Bill A Step In The Right Direction Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Link Naija