Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill: CSOs write Speaker, Gbajabiamila for quick passage

Femi Gbajabiamila

A coalition of Civil Society Organizations, referred to as cluster has appealed to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to support the passage of the Anti-sexual harassment bill which is now before the house for concurrence.

Initially, the bill was sponsored by Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege and 57 other senators in 2016.

Solacebase reports that the 8th Assembly of the Senate (2015-2019) had passed the bill, but it was rejected by the House of Representatives when it was sent for concurrence.

This was contained in a letter dated  January,17th 2022 and written to the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila and signed on behalf of the cluster by Comrade Kabiru Saidu Dakata.

Read Also:Varsity sacks lecturer for alleged sexual harassment

The letter said the bill was reintroduced to the Senate in October 2019 (current 9th assembly), two days after a BBC documentary exposed two lecturers of the University of Lagos, and a lecturer of the University of Ghana for sexual harassment.

It said the documentary sparked reactions from many Nigerians who described the issue as a norm in Nigerian universities.

The letter read ,’’The Senate on Tuesday, 07/07/2020 passed the bill, and it has been transmitted to the House of Representatives for concurrence. We are optimistic that this time, the House of Representatives members will like to be part of this great history by ensuring that this important bill is passed into law.’’

Read Also:Kaduna Polytechnic Sacks HOD Over Sexual Harassment

THE FULL TEXT

17th January, 2022.

Rt. Hon. Olufemi Hakeem Gbajabiamila,

Speaker, House of Representatives,

Federal Republic of Nigeria,

National Assembly Complex,

Three Arms Zone,

Abuja.

Hon. Speaker,

AN APPEAL TO THE RT. HON. SPEAKER, TO SUPPORT THE PASSAGE OF THE ANTI-SEXUAL HARASSMENT BILL (A BILL FOR AN ACT TO PREVENT, PROHIBIT AND REDRESS SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF STUDENTS IN TERTIARY EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND FOR MATTERS CONNECTED THEREWITH, 2019)

We are members of the Anti-sexual Harassment Advocacy Cluster, a consortium of different Civil Society Organizations working to contribute in addressing the prevalence of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Members of the cluster include: Centre for Awareness on Justice and Accountability (CAJA) Kano State, Youth Alive Foundation (YAF) Abuja, Village Debbo Care Initiative (VDCare) Kaduna State, Sefjamil Media and Development (SMD) Kano State, Joint Association of Persons with Disability (JONAPWD), Gombe State Chapter, Women`s Rights and Health Project (WRAHP) Lagos State and Connected Development—Akwa Ibom State (CODE).

Sir, the cluster has meticulously studied all the content of the above bill that has been passed into law by the Nigerian Senate, on Tuesday, 07/07/2020, and now at the Federal House of Representatives for concurrence. Based on our experience on working with the survivors of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions, we are confident that the bill, if passed into law, will provide a uniform law that will address the rampant cases of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

In view of the above, we wish to appeal to your good office, and all members of the House of Representatives, to support the passage of the bill into law. This, if done, will be welcomed by the majority of Nigerian students as the law will give protection to the millions of female students studying in different tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

While we thank you for the anticipated positive response, kindly find the attached document on the prevalence of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

Sincerely Yours,

Comrade Kabiru Saidu Dakata,

For the cluster.

Read Also:Buhari Calls For Urgent Action To Address Sexual Harassment Against Students

Prevalence of Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria

Background

Globally, university 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 believe to be a molding and filtering ground for building a 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 to have 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 disclosed to the media and became a matter of nation-wide discussion.

Prevalence of Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria

In 2018, a survey by the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and Law, revealed that 70 per cent of female graduates from Nigerian tertiary institutions have been sexually harassed in school, with the main perpetrators being classmates and lecturers. In a survey conducted in 19 tertiary institutions across six states in Nigeria, by a consortium of civil society organizations, including the Centre for Awareness on Justice and Accountability (CAJA), and led by Youth Alive Foundation (YAF), it was found that lack of clear channels of reporting was one of the discouraging factors to report cases of sexual harassment. According to 56% of the respondents, there were no clearly and defined channels of reporting sexual harassment in their schools as students were not even aware of any law to protect them against sexual harassment in schools. Also, the absence of uniform law to address the menace in all the tertiary institutions of Nigeria made it the case of concern, and this is why some institutions hide allegations of sexual harassment in order to protect their lecturer colleagues while jeopardizing the lives of the female victims.

Legislation/Policies of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions

Internationally, sexual harassment in tertiary institutions was ignored by law makers and others in authority. However, recently some countries are addressing this situation. In 2011, Pakistan, for example, in an attempt to stop sexual harassment at education institutions, has decided to institute stiff measures by implementing the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 in 128 public sector Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) across Pakistan. This was to ensure that students attending these institutions are not subjected to intimidation, offensive and hostile behaviors or be 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 in prison. South Korea is toughening its rules against sexual abuse after several well-publicized cases of sexual harassment have occurred in universities in Korea (The Star/Asia News Network, 2014). 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 of a sexual nature 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).

Our Call

In view of the above, we are appealing to the Rt. Hon. Speaker, and all members of the House of Representatives, to support the passage of the Anti-sexual harassment bill which is now before the house for concurrence. Initially, the bill was sponsored by Sen. Ovie  Omo-Agege and 57 other senators in 2016. The 8th Assembly of the Senate (2015-2019) had passed the bill, but it was rejected by the House of Representatives when it was sent for concurrence. It was reintroduced to the Senate in October 2019 (current 9th assembly), two days after a BBC documentary exposed two lecturers of the University of Lagos, and a lecturer of the University of Ghana for sexual harassment. The documentary sparked reactions from many Nigerians who described the issue as a norm in Nigerian universities. The Senate on Tuesday, 07/07/2020 passed the bill, and it has been transmitted to the House of Representatives for concurrence. We are optimistic that this time, the House of Representatives members will like to be part of this great history by ensuring that this important bill is passed into law.

Thank you very much Mr. Speaker, and all other members of the House of Representatives.

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