A public hearing session. Image credit: nationalaccordnewspaper.com
#SexforGrades: Nigerian Senate Committee holds a public hearing on a bill to prohibit sexual harassment in Higher Education Institutions
… debated bill in November 2019 and proposed 14 years jail term for offenders
Higher Education stakeholders demand to expand bill scope to include students in primary and secondary schools
The Nigerian Senate Committee has held a public hearing on a bill to prohibit sexual harassment (Anti-Sexual harassment Bill) in Nigeria’s higher education institutions. Sexual harassment in institutions of higher education by academic staff is popularly tagged #sexforgrades
Some of the stakeholders which include students, Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s), pressure groups among others present at the public hearing told the media that the Senate should expand the scope of the long-overdue bill to include students in primary and secondary schools as the students in those categories also face sexual harassment from their teachers.
The anti-sexual harassment bill is sponsored by Deputy Senate President Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, following a BBC investigation that uncovered alleged sexual misconduct by university lecturers in higher education institutions in Nigeria and Ghana
The Nigerian Senate in early November 2019 debated on the bill, which scaled second reading on the floor of the Senate.
The proposed legislation titled “A Bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions and for other matters connected therewith 2019” has 27 clauses.
The Special Assistant (Press) to President of the Nigerian Senate, Ezrel Tabiowo, signed a statement stating that the bill proposes up to 14 years jail term, with a minimum of five years, without an option of fine for any educator who commits sexual offenses in higher education institutions.
The statement defined sexual offenses as including sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or a prospective student or intimidating or creating a hostile or offensive environment for the student by soliciting for sex or making sexual advances.
Other forms of sexual harassment identified in the bill are grabbing, hugging, kissing, rubbing, stroking, touching, pinching the breasts or hair or lips or hips or buttocks or any other sensual part of the body of a student; or 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.
The Deputy Senate President, in his lead debate, stated that penalizing offenders is the most effective way to deal with the offense of sexual harassment in Nigeria’s higher education institution and further stressed that sexual harassment must be defined in higher educational institutions as statutory rape with strict liability for offenders to be prosecuted easily.
#SexforGrades scandal endemic has been ongoing for a while in Nigeria’s higher education institutions where academic staff are reported to be harassing female students for the purpose of awarding marks or grades as the case may be