Positive reactions trail Senate’s Sexual Harassment Bill

The Sexual Harassment Bill recently passed by the Upper House of the National Assembly, aimed at upholding ethics in tertiary institutions across Nigeria, has been greeted with approval from a cross-section of Nigerians.

Recent times have seen a spike in reported cases of sexual violence and rape all over the country.

Many lecturers in the nation’s tertiary institutions have been caught in sex-for-grade scandals, igniting the need for stiffer legislation to check the anomaly.

Titled: ‘A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress Sexual Harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for matters concerned therewith 2019’, the Bill was sponsored by Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege and 106 other senators.

The passage of the bill last week Tuesday, followed the consideration of the report of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters – which was in charge of reviewing the bill and organizing a public hearing on the legislation.

With 25 clauses, the Bill seeks to promote and protect ethical standards in tertiary institutions as well as to protect students against sexual harassment and prevent sexual harassment of students by educators in tertiary institutions.

Under the new proposed law, higher institutions lecturers found guilty of sexual harassment, could be jailed for up to 14 years.

A student, Onare Felicia of Nwafor Orizu College of Education, Nsugbe, commended the Senate for the bill, saying it would reduce the incessant harassment of female students by some errant lecturers.

According to her, sexual harassment has become a big challenge to female students achieving their ambition in the higher institutions.

“Many young girls have derailed because of this problem of sexual harassment by lecturers. A girl who came into the high institution with high hopes of studying and graduating in flying colours will have her hopes dashed when she finds that her hard work cannot take her anywhere unless she grants the sexual desires of her lecturers. At this point, you see many girls abandon the right standards and mess themselves up, believing that it only takes one night of pleasure to attain academic grades. This is also a major reason why we have many quacks today even as graduates,” Felicia said.

However, for the National President, National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS), Benedict Olalere, although the Bill is a welcome development, there should be room for proper investigation before conviction so that lecturers are not made to go in for crimes they did not commit.

This he said, will also not set the precedent for students to victimize their lecturers.

In his words, “I will like to advocate a thorough investigation of any case of sexual harassment reported. This will not only ensure justice for the students but also ensure that only lecturers found culpable that are punished. Whereas there are some irresponsible lecturers, we also know that there are bad eggs among the students. Therefore, we cannot in trying to solve a problem, create another. So my suggestion is that cases must be vigorously investigated before punishments are meted out.”

On his part, the Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Federal Polytechnic Offa Chapter, Dr Waheed Balogun, said the bill is apt to put a stop to the menace of sexual harassment.

He said with institutions now have dressing codes for students, the excuse by lecturers of seduction by indecently dressed students can no longer suffice.

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