The Anti-Sexual Harassment Advocacy (ASHA) cluster, a consortium of different Civil Society Organizations working with other partners to address the prevalence of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions in Nigeria have called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to assent to the sexual harrassment prohibition Bill.
In a Press Conference held in Kano led by the Executive Director, Centre for Awareness on Justice and Accountability (CAJA), Kabiru Dakata said, globally, Universities and other tertiary institutions systems are established to provide a desirable learning and working environment where students and lecturers can pursue their studies, work and scholarship without being intimidated.
“This system is expected to provide unique examples in eliminating inequalities and anomalies among all segments of the academia. Sadly, the issue related to sexual harassment in Nigerian tertiary institutions presents a different and grim picture. It is disturbing that this is happening in an environment that is often believed to be a molding and filtering ground for building virile leaders and intellectuals that will mount the stage of leadership tomorrow.
“In April 2018, Professor Richard Akindele of the Department of Accounting Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife was accused of having sexually harassed a female student named Monica Osagie (Alexandra, 2018; Lawal, 2018). Their recorded exchanges where the said lecturer was verbally harassing the female student was disclosed to the media and that became a matter of nationwide discussion.
“Recently, the students of the Faculty of Law, University of Calabar, protested against persistent sexual harassment by the Dean of the faculty, Prof Cyril Ndifon.”
Dakata lamented that legislation and policies of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions
Internationally, sexual harassment in tertiary institutions was ignored by law makers and others in authority thus recently some countries are addressing the situation.
“In 2011, Pakistan, in an attempt to stop sexual harassment at educational institutions, decided to institute stiff measures by implementing the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 in 128 public Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) across the country to ensure that students attending these institutions are not subjected to intimidation, offensive and hostile behaviors or coerced by male lecturers to have sex in exchange for grades.
“In 2012, France approved legislation that makes sexual harassment a crime and it covers sexual harassment in educational institutions. The violation of the new French law is punishable by up to three years imprisonment. South Korea is toughening its rules against sexual abuse after several well-publicized cases of sexual harassment had occurred in their universities. Australia has included schools, colleges and universities in its Sex and Age Discrimination Legislation Amendment Act 2011 (Australian Human Rights Commission, n.d.).
“In the United States, sexual harassment in education is an unwelcome behavior that interferes with a student’s ability to learn, study, work or participate in school activities. It is a form of discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 1999).”
He further highlighted that the effort of the National Assembly
In Nigeria, the 9th National Assembly passed the Anti-Sexual Harassment bill. The bill seeks to promote and protect ethical standards in tertiary institutions while also seeks to prevent and protect students against sexual harassment by educators in tertiary institutions which has been transmitted to the President for his assent.
“Our Appeal to Mr. President is while we acknowledge the commitment of your administration to increase access to and quality of education at all levels, it is important to pay attention to a safe environment for learning where students will be protected against any form of harassment.
“This cluster has meticulously studied the content of the above bill and based on our experience in working with the survivors of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions, we are confident that the bill, if assented to, will provide a uniform law that will address the rampant cases of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions in Nigeria. We are appealing to your good office, to assent to this bill that will serve as a shield between the innocent female students and bad eggs among lecturers and other staff who hide under this noble profession, to commit this heinous crime of Sexual Harassment.”
Other organisations that formed the cluster are the Youth Alive Foundation (YAF), Gender Mobile Initiative, Village Debbo Care Initiative (VDCare), Sefjamil Media and Development (SMD), Joint Association of Persons with Disability (JONAPWD), Gombe State Chapter, Women`s Rights and Health Project (WRAHP) and Connected Development—Akwa Ibom State (CODE).