On Tuesday, the senate passed for a third reading a bill seeking to prohibit sexual harassment in tertiary institutions.
It was passed after Opeyemi Bamidele, chairman of the committee on judiciary and legal matters, presented a report.
The bill was reintroduced in the senate in 2019 following a spike in reports of sexual harassment in universities.
While presenting his report, Bamidele said the bill seeks to tame the “hydra-headed monster” of sexual harassment and make the country’s institutions conducive for learning.
“It has been made an offence by removing mutual consent as a defence in prosecution of sexual harassment cases in tertiary educational institutions and maintain relationship that exists between educators and students with the aim of making our tertiary institutions conducive centres of learning,” the senator said.
“This bill seeks to tame the hydra-headed monster in the name of sexual harassment which has become a pandemic in our tertiary institutions.”
However, while considering aspects of the bill, clause 7 turned out to be controversial among the senators.
Ovie Omo-Agege, deputy senate president and sponsor of the bill, said lady students have been classified as minors and their consent is not a defence if court proceedings are instituted against a lecturer.
But Ibrahim Yahaya, senate leader, and Enyinnaya Abaribe, minority leader, kicked against the provision.
Yahaya argued that having lectured for more than 10 years, some students would use the provision to “set up their lecturers”.
But the provision was retained.
Here are highlights of the bill:
LECTURERS, STUDENTS MUST MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIP OF ‘TRUST’
Clause 3 provides that “an educator shall observe a fiduciary duty of care to every student by not exploiting a student or his/her relationship with a student for personal gains, sexual pleasure, or immoral satisfaction, or in any way whatsoever that violates the sacrosanctity, honour and inviolability of the fiduciary relationship of authority, dependency and trust.”
WINKING IS AN OFFENCE
Clause 4 states that an educator has committed an offence if he or she hugs or winks at his/her student.
An educator shall be guilty of committing an offence or felony of sexual harassment if he or she; –
“(a) violates the fiduciary duty of care in section 3 of this bill; or
(b) has sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or prospective student; or
(c) intimidates or creates a hostile or offensive environment for the student by soliciting for sex from the student or by making sexual advances towards a student; or
(d) directs or induces another person to commit any act of sexual harassment under the provisions of this bill, or conspires with another person in the commission of sexual harassment by another one person without which it would not have been committed; or
(e) grabs, hugs, kisses, rubs or strokes or touches or pinches the breasts or hair or lips or hips or buttocks or any other part of the body of a student; or
(g) whistles or winks at a student or jokes or makes sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique or stalks a student.”
EDUCATOR HAS DEFENCE ON GROUNDS OF MARRIAGE
Clause 5 provides that “for the purposes of the offences created in clause 4 of this Bill, it shall be a defence that the educator and the student are legally married.”
STUDENTS’ CONSENT NOT DEFENCE
Clause 6 states that “it shall not be a defence to any offence created in clause 4 of this Bill that a student consented to the commission of the offence.”
SANCTIONS AGAINST FALSE COMPLAINTS
Clause 18 provides that “where at the completion of an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint, an independent sexual harassment investigative committee finds or determines in its final decision that the complaint is false and malicious, the committee shall recommend sanctions to the administrative head against the student who filed the complaint.”
OFFENDERS COULD GET UP TO 14 YEARS’ IMPRISONMENT
Clause 10 (1) provides that “any person who commits any of the offences specified in Section 4 (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) of this bill commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be sentenced to imprisonment for 14 years or to a fine of N5 million or both.”
Having been passed by the senate, the bill will be sent to the house of representatives for concurrence.
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