Three exceptional issues occurred this week with regard to the battle towards sexual harassment in Nigeria’s tertiary establishments. First was the disclosing of a coverage doc on sexual harassment on the College of Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Second was the sacking of eight lecturers on the Akwa Ibom State College, Uyo, for sexual offences, and the third, the second studying of the sexual harassment invoice on the Senate.
The UNIPORT coverage doc defines the principles of engagement between lecturers, college directors and college students of the college. Considered one of these guidelines is that lecturers shouldn’t hug their feminine college students. The college’s Vice Chancellor, Prof Ndowa Lale, suggested lecturers whose trousers’ zippers weren’t effectively sewn to strategy their tailors for vital amendments to ensure that them to retain their jobs.
Lale additionally made it clear that the college was dedicated to defending the younger women and men put in its care from those who may need to use their privileged positions to get sexual favours. With this, UNIPORT seems to have taken the lead in sending an unambiguous sign to sexual predators on its campus because the BBC’s video on sex-for-grades in some African universities went viral. That is commendable.
On its half, the Akwa Ibom State College reportedly sacked eight lecturers discovered responsible of sexually assaulting and extorting their college students. The college’s VC, Prof Eno Ibanga, defined that the choice to alleviate the lecturers of their jobs was taken after an intensive investigation into their circumstances. He additionally swore to run an establishment that might stand the check of time. That is additionally cheering information and hopefully, randy lecturers and others within the college neighborhood would have gotten the best sign as to what awaits them ought to they be discovered responsible of such offences sooner or later.
As per the proposed laws on sexual harassment, it was sponsored by the Senate Deputy President, Ovie Omo-Agege. The invoice, titled, “A Invoice for an Act to Forestall, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of College students in Tertiary Academic Institutions and for different issues related therewith 2019”, has 27 clauses. The invoice proposes as much as 14 years jail time period with a minimal of 5 years with out an possibility of wonderful for any educator, who commits sexual offences in tertiary establishments.
It additionally defines sexual offences as together with sexual activity with a scholar or calls for for intercourse from a scholar or a potential scholar or intimidating or making a hostile or offensive surroundings for the scholar by inquiring for intercourse or making sexual advances.
Different types of sexual harassment recognized within the invoice 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.”
Regardless of being little drops within the ocean, these developments are worthy of consideration, particularly in a rustic the place simplistic responses are often given to necessary and pressing nationwide maladies. An instance of such simplicity, as an example, was mirrored within the utterance of the Training Minister, Adamu Adamu, on the unveiling of the UNIPORT coverage doc. Represented by the Assistant Director, Tertiary Division of the ministry, Mrs Ijeoma Duru, the minister suggested feminine college students to cease throwing themselves at their lecturers. He stated, “They (female students) should stop going to lecturers unnecessarily and should not harass their lecturers. Girls should read their books and be able to defend their certificates.”
Think about a minister of schooling on this age and time providing such a biased and simplistic answer to a critical matter – an issue that has value many feminine college students their college schooling, leaving a number of others traumatised for all times. Left to the minister, the feminine college students are those throwing themselves at their lecturers. In different phrases, lecturers are the victims of sexual harassment.
How can a minister with such a myopic angle consider taking any affordable step in direction of fixing an issue as critical as sexual harassment within the nation’s tertiary establishments? Nobody is denying the existence of some feminine college students that consider they will use what they need to get what they need, however what’s the inhabitants of such in comparison with the variety of male lecturers that see their college students as small animals that they may prey on? After all, in the identical vein, it will be improper to imagine that each one lecturers are sexual perverts. As a matter of reality, I consider these inflicting downside within the system are within the minority. To have a greater understanding of the issue, one would have anticipated the schooling minister to fee a examine into the issue. The outcomes from such a examine would have provided a dependable and scientific perception into the issue. The minister may then communicate based mostly on information and figures. Authorities officers ought to learn to conceal their bias, particularly when talking on delicate public points.
It is usually price emphasising that sexual harassment just isn’t peculiar to Nigerian increased establishments, neither is it distinctive to campuses, so there isn’t a level vilifying the Nigerian womenfolk. It occurs in workplaces, media homes, amongst politicians, within the leisure business and even in non secular organisations. Nearly two thirds of UK college students and graduates, for instance, are stated to have skilled sexual harassment whereas at college, in accordance with a analysis by Revolt Sexual Assault in partnership with The Scholar Room. In the identical vein, between 20 and 40 per cent of feminine college students within the US are stated to be harassed within the college, in accordance with the New York Instances.
When the Australian Human Rights Fee performed a nationwide survey on the prevalence of sexual harassment at Australian universities in 2016, one in two college college students was discovered to have been sexually harassed not less than as soon as in a college setting. The report, launched in 2017, additionally famous large under-reporting of the issue. The survey discovered that 94 per cent of scholars that have been sexually harassed didn’t make a proper report or criticism to their college.
When Australia realised the issue of under-reporting, it initiated a marketing campaign to boost consciousness of sexual assault and sexual harassment in its 39 universities. It additionally went additional to supply higher help companies for college students, encouraging universities to share assets on finest practices. That may be a good instance of adopting an affordable strategy to fixing a major problem, not buying and selling blames.
Earlier than anybody is deceived into believing that lecturers in superior nations additionally harass their college students, it is very important observe that circumstances of sexual harassment in these nations are principally amongst college students on campus-not lecturers harassing college students.
Going ahead, past the sacking of randy lecturers as carried out by the Akwa Ibom State College, such lecturers also needs to be blacklisted. The Federal Authorities businesses in control of tertiary establishments, the college neighborhood and the Educational Senior Employees Union of Universities all have an enormous function to play on this regard. These establishments ought to make the blacklist publicly obtainable for anybody to have the ability to verify. If correctly carried out, it will render sexual predators completely unemployed as it will be tough for them to get one other job as soon as sacked in any tertiary establishment within the nation. ASUU and different tutorial unions in polytechnics, faculties of schooling and different tertiary establishments ought to have a register for all their members. Blacklisted lecturers ought to be flagged and their rights to show withdrawn.
In addition to this, the federal businesses overseeing the actions of tertiary establishments within the nation ought to collectively fee a analysis into the issue and give you a nationwide coverage on the problem. Different tertiary establishments ought to work in direction of having their very own sexual harassment coverage. This could explicitly state the method of in search of redress by college students, what constitutes harassment and the punishment for harassers.
Apart this, tertiary establishments ought to encourage using nameless reporting instruments. There ought to be consciousness campaigns on how you can report circumstances of harassment on campuses. Many establishments have their very own radio stations that might be used for this goal. College students ought to be inspired to return ahead to inform their tales with out concern of being intimidated, embarrassed or punished.
Olabisi Deji-Folutile is a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. Electronic mail [email protected]