The Nigerian Senate has passed the Sexual Harassment Bill in tertiary institutions after its third reading. The bill was sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege and 106 other senators. The passage of the bill followed consideration of the report of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
“This is a very important and landmark legislation that this Ninth Senate has passed,” said Senate President Ahmed Lawan. “We have to protect our daughters from predators. We want our tertiary institutions to be a very safe environment for everyone, and this is legislation that will ensure that wish.”
The bill was reintroduced in the Senate on October 9 after a BBC documentary that exposed two lecturers of the University of Lagos, and a lecturer of the University of Ghana of sexual harassment. On November 6, the bill scaled the second reading. According to Mr. Omo-Agege who led the debate, "The strongest and most effective way to deal with the offence of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions is to penalize the very impropriety of the act, with or without consent, by making consent immaterial once the act is established."
What does the Sexual Harassment Bill address?
A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress Sexual Harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for matters concerned therewith, 2019.
The bill seeks to promote and protect ethical standards in tertiary institutions. It also seeks to protect students against sexual harassment and also prevent sexual harassment of students by educators in tertiary institutions.
Here are ways Lecturers or individuals that hold power in tertiary institutions can be found guilty, according to the bill.
- If they have sexual intercourse with a student or demand for sex from a student or a prospective student.
- If they intimidate or create a hostile or offensive environment for the student by soliciting for sex from the student or making sexual advances towards the student.
- If they direct or induce another person to commit any act of sexual harassment or cooperate in the commission of sexual harassment by another person.
- If they grab, hug, kiss, rub or stroke or touch or pinch the breast or hair or lips or hips or buttocks or any other sensual part of the body of a student.
- If they display, give or send naked or sexually explicit pictures or videos or sex related objects to a student by hand or courier or electronic or any other means.
The bill mentions a condition that would make the actions stated above not become crimes. It also lists conditions that even if raised would not be tenable as justifications of a lecturer’s actions. According to the bill, it shall be a defence that the educator and the student are legally married.
It shall not be a defence to any offence created in Clause 4 of this Bill that a student consented to any offence. It shall not be necessary for the prosecution to prove the intention of the accused person or the condition under which the act of sexual harassment was carried out.
Jail Terms for Offenders
Any person who commits any of the offences or acts of demanding sex intimidating a student or inducing another person to commit any act of sexual harassment is guilty of an offence of felony and shall, on conviction, be sentenced to an imprisonment term of up to 14 years but not less than five years, without an option of a fine.
Any person who commits any of the offences or acts of touching a student, sending sexual pictures or videos to a student, or make sexual advances or passes towards a student, is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to an imprisonment term of up to five years but not less than two years, without an option of a fine.