The Nigerian Senate on Wednesday 8th of July 2020 re-introduced the Sexual Harassment Bill. The bill sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, was read during plenary for the first time in the 9th Assembly. The 8th Assembly of the Senate under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki had proposed the bill titled: “Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution Prohibition Bill”. The bill was sponsored by Mr Omo-Agege and 106 other senators.
The bill seeks to promote and protect ethical standards in tertiary institutions. It also seeks to protect students against sexual harassment as well as prevent sexual harassment of students by educators in tertiary institutions. The bill prescribed a five-year jail term for lecturers and educators convicted of sexual harassment of their male or female students. The bill also recommended expulsion or suspension for students whose claims of being serially abused by lecturers or educators are found to be false by any competent court.
A closer look at the bill reveals that the bill has 27 clauses: Clause 1 is on the Objective of the bill; Clauses 2 and 3 are on Relationship of Authority, Dependency and Trust between an educator and a student; 4 and 5 are on Offences constituting sexual harassment under the Bill and Marriage
Clause 6 deals with defence of what constitutes offence in Clause 4. Clauses 8 to 14 are respectively on commencement of criminal proceedings, penalty, and civil action for an educator’s breach of fiduciary duty. Clauses 15 to 17 are on Institutional Disciplinary Measures, Independent Sexual Harassment Prohibition Committee and Institutional Disciplinary Procedure respectively, while Clause 18 is on judicial review of decisions taken by an institution; Clauses 19 and 20 spell out the criminal liability of administrative heads as defined under the Bill where there is a failure to address sexual harassment complaints as contemplated under the Bill.
Clauses 21 and 22 and 18 are concerned with liability on a student for false complaint; Clauses 23 to 25 make provisions for the protection of students from victimisation under any guise; Clauses 26 and 27 are on Definition of Terms and Citation respectively.
While the NWTF commends the Senate for this bill and join other Nigerians to call for an expedited action on the quick passage of the bill. NWTF also holds the view that sexual harassment in any sphere of human endeavor is a violation of their fundamental human rights. Sexual harassment, generally, adversely affects and it takes its unpleasant toll on women’s lives to unimaginable levels; particularly women’s aspiration to leadership. It is incontrovertible that women are mostly targets of sexual harassment and with severe consequences including but not limited to physical and mental health problems, career interruptions, lower earnings, workplace intimidation, toxic work environment, amongst others.