An appeal has gone to the Nigerian government to enforce the laws on sexual harassment in order to curb the menace in the country.
The appeal was made on Wednesday at the screening of a documentary, “The Hunting Ground”, and a panel discussion on ending sexual assault in institutions in Nigeria.
The event was hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Abuja.
The Hunting Ground is a 2015 documentary film about the incidence of sexual assault on college campuses in the United States and what its creators say is a failure of college administrations to deal with it adequately.
Sexual assault is an act in which a person intentionally sexually touches another person without that person’s consent, or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act.
Some of the laws on sexual violence in Nigeria are the Violence Against Person Prohibition Act and the Child Rights Act.
Speaking during the discussion, a human rights activist, Dorothy Njemanze, said the fear of victimisation has stopped most students from reporting the cases to their school officials or parents.
“I was raped when I was eight years old and I have been raped and assaulted over 30 times. Humans should be allowed to take responsibilities for their actions and stop blaming the victim involved. Most parents will rather take their wards for deliverance rather than a psychologist when they are harassed,” she said.
According to her, to curb the act, there should be enforcement of laws against sexual violation.
“Even for the victims, Nigeria rehabilitation system is faulty,” she said.
She said most educational institutions do not have laws for sexual harassment while noting that most universities do not have policies against sexual assault.
“For instance, in the University of Abuja handbook, there is no section that talked or explained how sexual harassment should be treated or handled.
“The only thing you see is dress properly. Dressing should not be a reason for a student to be harassed. There should be a clamour for punishment for sexual harassment in the school guide,” Ms Njemanze said.
She said sexual harassment also happens in informal institutions.
“Until corporate affairs make it as a prerequisite, most organisations will not know how serious it is,” she said.
Speaking on reporting sexual assault mechanism, the director, Gender Security Studies, University of Abuja, Ocholi Ekundayo, said there are counsellors in every student affairs department in Nigerian universities where students can report assault from their colleagues and lecturers.
She said the National Universities Commission has made a policy that every university in Nigeria must establish a counselling centre where issues of assaults can be reported to and resolved.
“Nigeria universities run a committee centre, we do not take up a case without referring to the committee. The process of resolving this issue is not fast. Most of the information on sexual harassment is given in the student handbook and the handbooks are upgraded every five years,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, the Dean, Faculty of Social Science, National Open University of Nigeria, Ganiyat Adesina-Uthman, said sex for mark is not rampant in NOUN because students hardly see their lecturers, except final year students who meet with their project supervisors.
“We call such lecturer that is reported to order once or twice but I write formally the third time. But in a case whereby the student writes officially, we take it up immediately. A lecturer has been dismissed on this issue before because there was evidence,” she said.
She said the National Assembly and the presidency should sign all the policies on sexual assault into a bill.
She also urged for adequate training for security personnel that will be handling sexual harassment issues as most of them are fond of blaming the victims.
“Enforcement and implementation of these laws are the problem. In Malaysia, if there is a rape case, the person can be trapped using a forensic report,” Mrs Adesina-Uhtman said.
An ex-student of Government Secondary School, Karu, in Abuja who pleaded anonymity for fear of victimisation said there should be a structure in place to protect victims of rape.
“My friend was raped in 2014 and the school suspended her. The school said she was raped because she was putting on a short skirt and she was flogged in front of the whole school.
“After she resumed, the set of boys raped her again and she could not tell anyone. She was raped three times after the incident and this is not peculiar to her.
“It also happened in Government Secondary School, Jikwoyi. Rape is very rampant in FCT secondary schools and we can not tell anyone because we will get punished,” she said.
Premium Times last year reported how the management of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, dismissed a lecturer, Richard Akindele, who demanded sex from a female student to help her improve her grades.
The decision was reached after the investigative panel found Mr Akindele guilty of an inappropriate relationship with one of his students, Monica Osagie, an offence which he admitted.