Bill prohibiting sexual harassment in tertiary institutions scales second reading in Senate

A Bill for the prohibition of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions passed the second reading at the Senate on Wednesday.

This followed the presentation of the Bill by the sponsor, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege, who is the Deputy Senate President at plenary.

The bill is entitled, “A Bill for An Act To Prevent, Prohibit And Redressal of Sexual Harassment of Students In Tertiary Educational Institutions And For Matters Connected Therewith, 2019.”

The Bill is co-sponsored by 105 senators.

Presenting the Bill, Omo-Agege said that the Bill, which was read for the first time on Oct. 9 was enacted to promote and protect ethical standards in tertiary institutions.

According to the Bill, any person who commits any of the offences or acts specified in Clause 4 (1), (2) and (3) is guilty of an offence of a felony.

“And shall, on conviction, be sentenced to an imprisonment term of up to 14 years but not less than 5 years, without an option of a fine.”

Other objectives, the sponsor of the Bill said, included protection of students against sexual harassment by educators in tertiary educational institutions, prevention of sexual harassment of students by educators in tertiary educational institutions.

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“Redressal of complaints of sexual harassment of students by educators in tertiary educational institutions.”

He explained that sexual harassment in campuses was a repugnant challenge to our values as a people.

“For far too long, sexual predators masquerading as educators have plied the corridors of our nation’s higher institutions unchecked.

” It will continue in the absence of appropriate leadership response,” Omo-Agege said.

The deputy senate president further said that an educator shall be guilty of committing an offence or a felony of sexual harassment if he/she
had sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or a prospective student.

“Intimidates or creates a hostile or offensive environment for the student by soliciting for sex from the student or making sexual advances towards the student.

“Directs or induces another person to commit any act of sexual harassment under this Bill, or cooperates in the commission of sexual harassment by another person without which it would not have been committed.

“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.”

Contributing, Sen. Uche Ekwunife (PDP-Anambra Central) disagreed with the submission by the sponsor that criminal and penal codes had taken care of other sexual harassment in private sectors, churches among others.

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“I don’t agree to that because criminal and penal codes don’t have stringent and strict punishment for offenders.

“I think we need to harmonise the earlier Act with this present Bill we are about to enact.

“What happens to women is not something we sit on this floor to talk about.

“It just doesn’t happen only in tertiary institutions it happens everywhere; house girls cannot even come out to talk about what they pass through in the hands of their masters.

“The law should cover all manner of sexual harassment whether it is in the tertiary institutions or in the private sector or churches,” she said.

In his remark, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said it was a Bill that had wide universal acceptance.

“We will like to see an environment where our females are fully protected, fully hopeful that no harm will come their way whether they are in educational institutions or anywhere else.

“As a nation, we will always protect our females regardless of their age and status,” he said.

He, however, referred the Bill to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to report back to the upper chamber in two weeks.

(NAN)

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