Ovie Omo-Agege, deputy senate president, says under the proposed sexual harassment prohibition law, students of tertiary institutions will be treated as minors.
Speaking at a policy dialogue organised by Youth Alive Foundation (YAF), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), in Abuja on Monday, Omo-Agege said a lecturer could face statutory rape charges even if a student gives consent.
The proposed law was reintroduced in the senate in October in the wake of a documentary exposing sexual assaults in West African universities by the BBC Africa Eye.
The deputy senate president said they were able to make students minors “because of that special relationship of trust and dependency that exist between the lecturer or the educator and the student”.
“What we are trying to achieve now is make sure that we also treat these university students, polytechnic or college of education students – we want to treat all of them as if they are minors making it statutory rape,” he said.
“There has to be a basis for that and we have been able to make the case for that. The reason why we can make them minors is because we have seen that they are incapable of giving consent because of that special relationship of trust and dependency that exist between the lecturer or the educator and the student.
“That deprives them of great legal capacity to voluntarily consent to having that sexual relationship. As is it right now, there is no special provision dealing with these category of victims other than the general law regulating rape.”
Omo-Agege said it will be difficult to prove rape allegations going by the general provisions of the laws.
“If we leave them to the general provisions regulating rape, it will be difficult for prosecutors to prove an offence of rape,” he said.
Udy Okon, YAF executive director, said sexual harassment is an important issue that must be addressed in society.
“We have accepted it as a norm. It is not the ideal situation where girls are abused,” Okon said.
She said her organisation will continue to put the issue on the front burner.
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