A group, the Nigerian Feminist Forum [NFF], has cried out over the increasing cases of rape in tertiary institutions across the country.
“The Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF) is dismayed and alarmed by what appears to be an overwhelming rise in reported cases of sexual assault and rape of female university students by male members of the academic staff and students across university campuses in Nigeria,” the group said via a statement by one of its officials, Geraldyn Ezeakile.
The group therefore called for immediate action to end the menace.The statement called attention to recent cases of rape on campuses but noted that there were several other cases that were unreported because victims feared stigmatisation.
“For instance in the last week of August 2015, Professor Cyril Ndifon, Dean of the Faculty of Law University of Calabar was alleged to have sexually assaulted a 20 year old, 400 level law student from the same university,” the group noted.”On or about July 23 2015 Dr. Akin Baruwa, a lecturer with the University of Lagos, allegedly raped an 18 year old female admission seeker.”
The statement said the majority of cases of sexual violence against female university students in Nigeria go unreported for various reasons associated with victim shaming, stigma, character assassination, public backlash and limited access to justice, among others.
It added that in many cases, female students who reported such cases were subsequently targeted for reprisal attacks by thugs, cultists or university teachers.
The group argued that the growing abuse of female university students is fuelled by lack of consistent and clear policy by university governing bodies and school authorities concerning sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.
“Student handbooks and codes of conduct for staff and students are generally ‘silent’ on this and do not adequately address issues of violence against women,” the statement said
“Sexual assaults are hardly mentioned during orientation for first year students neither are there any dedicated channels of redress or support for students who experience this form of violence while on campus.”
The feminists said “it is inadequate for university authorities to continue to disassociate themselves, single out, disown or suspend individual perpetrators of such grievous crime of gender-based violence and abuse of public office and trust without providing any sort of support and care for victims and their families.
Saying the sexual abuse of female students directly impedes girl-child education, the group urged the Academic Staff Union of Universities to adopt the following measures:
— Adopt and enforce a comprehensive sexual harassment policy for its members;
— Penalise by delisting any of its members convicted of an act of sexual offence;
— Sensitize its members on then negative effect of sexual harassment of female students.
The statement also requested governing bodies of tertiary institutions to take the following steps in addressing the problem:
— Adopt policies and measures to address the issue of sexual violation of female university students by fellow students and members of staff;
— Put in place a comprehensive policy on eradicating sexual harassment on campus.
— Ensure a victim’s response mechanism for reporting, investigating and prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence against female students.
— Conduct a mass sensitization on sexual violence across all campuses in Nigeria.
The group also called on civil society organisations and members of the Nigerian media to continue to support victims to report cases of sexual harassment and abuse.