Senate Reintroduces Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Bill, 2019
2020 has been an intense year for many people. From the pandemic to loss of jobs, explosions at markets, to the re-occurring cases of rape and police brutality on the news. However, this year has seen women demanding for a society that protects them and this has not been met with an encouraging response from the government or it officials; this is one of the reasons why this bill is a win.
On the 7th of October 2019, BBC released an “African Eye” documentary on “Sex for Grades” by an investigative journalist, Kiki Mordi and her team. The documentary, which generated a lot of conversations exposed the sexual harassment by university lecturers to their female students, using the university of Lagos and Ghana as a case study.
It generated an uproar on social media platforms and led to the reintroduction of the “SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF STUDENTS IN TERTIARY EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND FOR MATTERS CONNECTED THEREWITH” by SENATOR OVIE OMO-AGEGE on the 9th of October 2019.
It is important to note, that this bill was first introduced under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki as the then president of the National assembly but was rejected because it was incoherent and did not cater for other spheres of the society like the workplace, religious institutions among others – an argument which was adopted by many members of the House, hence, my use of the term “re-introduced”.
The Bill passed its third reading on the 7th of July 2020 seeks to protect, prevent and redress sexual harassment by educators in tertiary educational institutions.
It explains in Section 2 that sexual harassment can exist where a relationship of Authority, Dependency and Trust exists between an educator and student then states in paragraph 4 that the educator is guilty of the offence if he/she:
“(1) has sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a
student or a prospective student; or
(2) intimidates or creates a hostile or offensive environment for the
student by soliciting for sex from the student or making sexual
advances towards the student; or
(3) directs or induces another person to commit any act of sexual
harassment under this Bill, or cooperates in the commission of
sexual harassment by another person without which it would not
have been committed; or
(4) grabs, hugs, kisses, rubs or strokes or touches or pinches the
breasts or hair or lips or hips or buttocks or any other sensual part
of the body of a student; or
(5) displays, gives or sends by hand or courier or electronic or any
other means naked or sexually explicit pictures or videos or sex
related objects to a student; or
(6) whistles or winks at a student or screams or exclaims or jokes or
makes sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks
about a student’s physique or stalks a student.”
Most importantly, the clause states the penalty for the offences specified in clause 4 (1) (2) and (3) to be an imprisonment term of up to 14 years but not less than 5 years, without an option of and conviction to an imprisonment term of up to 5 years but not less than 2 years, without an option of a fine for offences in Clause 4 (4), (5) and (6) of this Bill.
Furthermore, the Bill also provides for the establishment of an Independent Sexual Harassment Prohibition Committee by the administrative arm of the school which doesn’t just include lecturers but also two students, two non-academic staff members and shall include at least three (3) women or female. Stating also, that any administrative body that fails to create commission is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a minimum fine of N5,000,000 or imprisonment for 5 years, or both.
In a case of false accusation proven by the committee, it recommends sanctions by the administrative head against the student who made the complaint, which may include suspension of the student provided but doesn’t necessarily establish the complaint as false and does not prevent the educator from undergoing criminal prosecution for the alleged crime.
Conclusively, the bill would not necessarily dismantle the culture of sexual harassment by educators in tertiary institutions, but it is a step in the right direction to curb, punish and prevent the acts in schools as it gives room for accountability and sends a message to students that they deserve to learn in a safe environment.
Hopefully, the president assents it into a law.
Click the link below , to download the bill.10726