By Sola Ogundipe
The first elected female chairperson of the Nigeria Bar Association, FCT Chapter, Barr. Hauwa Shekarau, and the Executive Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center, WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, have called for a more comprehensive Sexual Harassment Bill that would enable Nigeria to tackle the rampant cases of sexual harassment more realistically.
The two lawyers and civil rights activists who spoke during a Zoom meeting on the Sexual Harassment Bill with the theme “Combating Sexual Harassment to Uphold Ethics in Nigeria’s Tertiary Education Institutions”, organised by the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria, NRHJN, decried the undesirable increase of sexual harassment cases in tertiary educational institutions.
Shekarau, who was the guest speaker at the event, lamented the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, urged for the harmonising existing laws to make it easier for lawyers and the police to ensure their implementation.
Her words: “Sexual harassment in the workplace in Nigeria is one of the worst in the world because we do not have extant laws that prohibit sexual harassment across board. This is the starting point but it would be very nice if it can be made holistic and very comprehensive.
“Nigeria’s criminal justice system is so flawed. It is flawed because of the society we live in. Day in day out, Nigeria is slipping into the abyss, it is sad but the truth. Today in Nigeria, justice is for the highest bidder.”
Calling for a review of the penalty, she said should be stiffer than what was recommended which she noted was not commensurate to the offence.
“If I were the one, I would say not less than 14 years should be the penalty rather than up to 14 years, because when you make provisions like this, it gives judges prerogative to reduce the penalty and when they do that it does not seem fair at all.”
Also speaking, the Executive Director, WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, argued that the essence of the sexual health bill was to protect professional ethics within the institutions of higher learning.
Akiyode-Afolabi who noted that the Sexual Harassment Bill is not targeted at lecturers, however, pointed out that lecturers who are in the position of responsibility should not compromise.
“There is a whole of things affecting sexual harassment in the school system. According to her, the system in itself makes students vulnerable. Students are exposed to risk and are vulnerable.”
She stressed that the law is intended to protect the students without eroding the authority of the educational institutions.