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70% of Nigerian’s female students sexually harassed – CSO

By Philomina Attah

A Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Gender Mobile Initiative (GMI), has said that 70 per cent of the female population in the country’s school system have experienced sexual harassment.

The Executive Director of GMI, Ms Omowumi Ogunrotimi, said this in Abuja at a summit on “Anti-Sexual Harassment in Educational Institutions,” co-convened by the group and the Independent Corrupt Practice and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

Ogunrotimi said the collaboration with the ICPC was based on its zero-tolerance to sexual harassment and to ensure government’s participation in achieving the desired systems change through policy engagement.

“Perhaps the recent statistics quoted by the World Bank Group on women, law and business on the prevalence of campus sexual harassment needs to be re-echoed for us to understand the urgency required in addressing sexual harassment,” she said.

Ogunrotimi said that the past few years witnessed global reckoning for perpetrators of sexual harassment, especially by abusers who wield significant power over the abused.

She noted that more stakeholders were needed in the frontline to fight the scourge and stem the tide of sexual harassment in the country.

“That 70 per cent of female students experience sexual harassment is an affront to our shared humanity and values as individuals and as a nation.

“While Nigerian tertiary institutions have become the centre ports for power-driven gender-based violence and harassment, the challenge has not received the required corresponding level of attention.

“This spate of violence has been mainly attributed to lack of a comprehensive anti-sexual harassment policy, lack of confidentiality-driven reporting channels and poor institutional response,” Ogunrotimi said.

According to her, investigations by prominent media organisations including the BBC Sex for Grades documentary elevated conversations on pragmatic policy framework that should address emerging issues bothering on social relations and integrity grading system among others, in our schools.

“We are not oblivious of the complexities of the systemic challenge we seek to address; we have all been working to nip sexual harassment in the bud before now.

“We know that different organisations are addressing different aspects of the problem,” she added.

Reacting, the Chairman of ICPC, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, said that the culture of silence out of fear of reprisal and stigmatisation had allowed sexual harassment to thrive in some quarters.

Owasanoye noted that with sensitisation and appropriate policy implementation things would gradually change.

“It is a deviation from the norm for an official of an institution to use his office or position to demand, receive, obtain or attempt to obtain any form of sexual gratification in order to execute his or her duties or as reward for doing his or her duties.

“The ideal thing is for official duties to be done with integrity, good conscience and diligence without the expectation of any unlawful benefit, but it seems the reverse has almost become the norm.

“It has become quite common for teaching and non-teaching staff to demand or expect sexual gratification from their students to whom they are supposed to serve as parents,” he said.

Owasanoye explained that the purpose of the event was to brainstorm and review the draft documents which the Commission and Gender Mobile had drafted.

He expressed the hope that the documents would eventually be adopted as templates for educational institutions when drafting individual organisational sexual harassment policies.

Owasanoye said the Commission had done a lot in the area of prevention and prosecution of sexual harassment in the country.

“The Commission has carried out about seven training and re-training programmes for its officers in Operations, Prosecution and Education and Public Enlightenment Departments and the officers trained also conducted trainings for their colleagues.

“The Commission has also partnered with some CSOs to carry out training for students while the Education and Public Enlightenment Department has taken up the task of including talks on sexual harassment in its different engagements.”

The ICPC boss noted that the commission had received about 17 reports relating to sexual harassment with one conviction via plea bargain.

“One resulted in system study, as one criminal case was recently filed in court, while some other cases are still under investigation,” he said.

The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, promised that his ministry would ensure the distribution of the sexual harassment template to the concerned regulatory agencies in the country.

Adamu who was represented by Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, JAMB Registrar, said that the ministry would ensure that teachers present the policy document to students at the end of each academic year.

He added that the purpose was for emphasis and assimilation as “each employee shall be given copies of workplace policy on sexual harassment.

“I must commend the ICPC and its partners on this programme for this laudable contribution to the education sector.
“The ministry on its part promises to ensure that the policy document when fully approved, will be implemented through the provision of the enabling environment and ensuring compliance,” Adamu said.

On his part, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege represented by his Chief of Staff, Dr Otive Igbuzor, enumerated some of the initiatives that the National Assembly had done in support of the war against sexual harassment.

According to him, the National Assembly through the deputy Senate President has worked on bills to tackle sexual harassment.

Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa, the ICPC-FORD Project Consultant, while presenting the Anti-Harassment Policies for Education Institutions in Nigeria, urged state governments to create policies on sexual harassment and ensure adequate consequences were provided for offenders.

Atsenuwa noted that the value of education in the country would be greatly affected if sexual harassment persist.

She commended the ICPC for driving institutional based policies on sexual harassment. (NAN)

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