Considering the alarming number of cases involving lecturers of higher institutions who harass their female students sexually, the federal government has moved to criminalize any such actions. The sexual harassment bill titled ‘the sexual harassment in tertiary educational institutions prohibition bill, 2016’, seeks to completely prohibit any form of lecturers/student sexual relationship and prescribes a five-year jail term for lecturers who get sexually involved with students.
The bill which passed its first reading in the Senate on Wednesday, was sponsored by Ovie Omo-Agege (Labour-Delta Central) and co-sponsored by 46 other senators.
Speaking to newsmen after the plenary session, the sexual harassment bill, Mr. Omo-Agege acknowledged that there is a dire necessity for sanitization in Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning, hence the need to rid them of lecturers who saw female students as “prize’’. He added that when the billed is passed into law, it will be a criminal offence for any educator to exploit a student sexually and whoever is found culpable will be liable to a jail term of up to five years but not less than two years with no option of fine.
He further explained that when the sexual harassment bill becomes a law, any university vice chancellor, rectors of polytechnics and other chief executives of institutions of higher learning who fail to act on complaints of sexual harassment made by students within one week of the report, will be jailed for two years, even as it also imposes on institutions the responsibility to protect students who initiate a sexual harassment charge.
According to Omo-Agege, the bill also seeks to protect would-be students seeking admissions into institutions of learning, students of generally low mental capacity and physically challenged students, from sexual harassment, adding that it was practiced in other countries as “honour codes’’ but emphasized that it should be domesticated in Nigeria in the Penal form. However, the lawmaker moved on to reveal that the bill gives room for the harassed students, their parents or guardians to attempt to find civil remedies in damages against sexual predator lecturers before or after their successful criminal prosecution by the State.
In the sexual harassment bill, provision is made for the sanction of students who falsely accuse lecturers of sexual harassment. Such students could face dismissal from the school but no jail term was prescribed. Additionally, even if a student consents to a sexual relationship with a lecturer, it will not in any way, serve as an excuse, as the bill seeks to completely ban lecturer-student relationships.
It is however stated in the bill that the only exemption to a relationship between a lecturer and a student is where the student is legally married to the lecturer before admission into the school.