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Academics seek improved policies on sexual harassment

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Stakeholders have called for an improvement in the anti-sexual harassment policies in the nation’s higher institutions, to effectively address the increasing cases of molestation of female students.

Speaking at a one-day consultative meeting with experts and regulatory bodies by the Women Advocates Research & Documentation Centre (WARDC), senior lecturer at the Department of Public Law, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Akinola Akintayo said sexual harassment policies must contain a comprehensive definition of what constitutes harassment.

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“There must be a comprehensive definition of what sexual harassment entails. The policies must cover physical, emotional and psychological harassment. There should also be an establishment of an enforcement structure. Mechanisms should be put in place for victims to lay complaints; more importantly, the policy should protect students from retaliation, which is one reason many are discouraged from speaking up.”

Speaking on the rationale behind the project, member, Board of Directors, WARDC, Nihinola Aluko-Olokun, said sexual and gender-based violence has

UNILAG. Photo: LAGSCHOOLS

UNILAG. Photo: LAGSCHOOLS

an impact on educational outcomes, with many students avoiding school, achieving below their potential, or dropping out completely.

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“It can also result in low self-esteem and depression, early and unintended pregnancy, as well as sexually transmitted infections such as HIV.”

She explained that WARDC collaborated with key stakeholders in the education sector to support standard operating procedures and policy guidelines that can strengthen institutions to address sexual and gender-based violence in Nigerian universities.

Speaking on efforts made by Lagos State University (LASU) to address the menace of sexual harassment, Deputy Registrar/Head of Counselling Unit, Dr. Ayeni Joseph Olabode, said the school is to domesticate the law and get more people to understand it, in a way that they can apply the law to prevent sexual harassment in whatever form.

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