Sexual harassment bill: Why not for the larger society?
Sir: The recent bill the Senate passed on sexual harassment is as a result of the prevalence of sexual harassment in our higher schools. Since its passage, however, some lecturers and well-meaning Nigerians have been criticising it and saying it is discriminatory since the Senate didn’t apply it to the larger society. Are the higher schools the only places where our females are being sexually harassed? Truly, had the Senate peruses sexual harassment sociologically, it wouldn’t have focused its recent law on only the higher schools. Sexual harassment happens everywhere. It happens in church, mosque, market, factory, etc. The government agencies too are not exempted. Sexual harassers are there. So, it wouldn’t be proper to apply the sexual harassment law to only our higher schools.
A few days ago, one Mrs Joy Nunieh accused the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Apkabio, of trying to sexually harass her having promised to retain her as Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) chief: “I slapped him. He tried to come on me. He tried to sexually harass me,” she said in a viral video. And when the minister was asked to vindicate himself of the accusation on Tuesday, instead, he didn’t but rather dribbled his questioner. We can’t say he sexually harass her or didn’t. But let’s assume that he did, the minister will go scot-free since the law is only applicable to higher schools.
What message is the Senate passing? Sexual harassment is allowable outside our tertiary institutions?
However, the Senate failed to understand that the way corruption is in every institution in this part of the world and prevalent in the political institution, so does sexual harassment. It’s only prevalent in our tertiary institutions. We’ve seen corrupt policemen and women. We’ve seen corrupt pastors and imams. And we’ve seen corrupt students and lecturers. If there is a law on corruption that covered these persons, why can’t the Senate pass a sexual harassment bill that would be applied to all?
Therefore, the Senate should see to the coverage of the bill. It shouldn’t be focused on the higher schools alone since the institutions are not the only places where sexual harassment occurs, only that it is prevalent there. The law should be amended so that it would cover the society at large. Since the essence of the bill is to protect our female students in higher schools, however, this would further protect them outside campus.
• Aremu Lukman Umor wrote from Lagos.
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