Why Buhari Should Mandate, Enforce Sexual Harassment Policy In Nigeria Universities And Schools
For far too long, sexual violence or sexual harassment has endured with no one accountable at the policy, enforcement or jurisdictional level.
Naturally, females are mostly at the receiving end of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in places like universities.
Laws on sexual violence including sexual harassment exist mostly in name as they are chronically unenforced by law enforcement agencies and disregarded by the courts in Nigeria. Recently, the National Assembly passed a broader bill on sexual violence against sexual harassment, sexual tourism and other related offences.
Instructively, Nigerian universities, for the most part, lack basic and comprehensive policies on sexual-related misconduct, including sexual harassment.
For far too long, sexual harassment and exploitation of mostly female students by male lecturers, administrators and even male students have been reportedly carried out in libraries, female hotels, lecture rooms and in offices or homes of lecturers or administrators.
Like other institutions in the nation, universities lag behind in these matters in that there are virtually limited efforts to investigate the questions on sexual harassment, and administrators remain uneducated on how to address these sensitive issues.
If the Buhari administration follows on its promise of full-blown welfare of our students, let it begin by crafting policies that will show lack of tolerance for oppressive sexual conduct in all of our universities and schools.
Just a few days ago, the media reported about one Dr. Akin Baruwa, described as a lecturer in the Department of Accounting, University of Lagos, who by his own admission was sexually involved with an 18-year-old female student seeking admission. In this matter, the girl reportedly described the incident as rape while the lecturer claimed it was consensual, which clearly supports the evidence that this lecturer with no understanding of sexual harassment policies does not see anything wrong with making sexual advances, requesting sexual favors, or physically engaging the girl in his office.
The Buhari Presidency should commit to creating and maintaining a safe, healthy and respectful learning environment in which students, faculty, and staff can work together free of all sexual harassment related behaviours which include sexual violence.
In the new administration, anti-sexual harassment policies and applicable federal laws should be fully introduced to all schools including higher institutions mandating that romantic relationships between staff or faculty where one has control over the other are inappropriate, even if consensual, and must be revealed, and both parties have the right to end it any time without fear of retaliation. Such anti-sexual harassment policies should include prohibition on unwelcome sexual flirtations, advances or propositions as well as unwanted sexual compliments, innuendoes, suggestions or jokes. Under the Buhari administration, anti-sexual harassment policies should state how to recognize sexual harassment, and information on when, how, where and to whom to report incidents of sexual harassment. Besides, such policies should have procedures on how to file a complaint. A complaint of sexual harassment may be verbal or written and needs not be on a particular form.
If the Buhari administration is to succeed in combating the scourge of sexual harassment in our institutions and workplaces, federal laws prohibiting sexual harassment or controlling workplace activities on these matters should be fully developed and spelt out by the National Assembly. The laws must be fully enforced by the police where necessary with the courts making it a business of theirs to make sure sexual assaults, sexual harassment and other misconduct are addressed and fully regulated.
***Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi, a consultant in National Psychology, is a former Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association.