Nigeria’s Senate has passed a “Landmark Legislation” to aid the fight against sexual harassment and to uphold ethics in the nation’s universities. The bill is titled: A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress Sexual Harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for matters concerned therewith, 2019. It outlines offences and consequent punishments for erring lecturers/educators. False accusers and university administrators who fail to probe allegations of sexual misconduct are also liable to punishments. Here’s the breakdown of the sexual harassment bill:
- Having or demanding sexual intercourse with a student or prospective student.
- Intimidating a student to have sex or making sexual advances towards the student.
- Enabling or cooperating with another person to commit any act of sexual harassment to a student.
- 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.
- Sends unsolicited explicit pictures or videos or sex-related objects to a student by hand or courier or electronic or any other means.
- 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.
- Exploits a student or his/her relationship with a student for personal gains, sexual pleasure or immoral satisfaction.
- 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.
- 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.
How to Commence an investigation
- A student or a representative who may be a relative, a guardian, lawyer of the student, or any person who has an interest in the well-being of the student, is to write a Sexual Harassment Petition complaining of the offence of sexual harassment against him/her to the Nigerian Police Force, or the Attorney-General who shall take necessary measures to prosecute the educator under the provisions of this Bill.
- A copy of the written Sexual Harassment Petition complaining of sexual harassment shall be delivered by the student or the student’s representative to both the administrative head and Secretary of the Independent Sexual Harassment Committee of the affected institution for record purposes.
- Criminal proceedings shall commence as soon as a charge has been filed in Court.
Liability for false Complaint
Where the committee finds that a complaint is false and malicious, it may recommend suspension of the student (provided that failure to prove an allegation of sexual harassment) which will be implemented after 21 working days if the student does not seek judicial review.