The Senate has passed its Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution Bill. According to the bill which was sponsored by Senator Omo Ovie-Agege, the Senate has prescribed a 5-year jail term for lecturers and educators convicted of sexual harassment of their male or female students.
The bill has also proposed a fine of N5 million in the event that the accused person is convicted by a competent court of law. The bill has also made provisions for lecturers and educators who may be falsely accused by their students.
An accused lecturer or educator who is acquitted by a court can turn the heat on the student who shall be expelled or suspended, as the University deems fit.
Addressing Senate correspondents after the passage of the Bill, the Sponsor, Senator Ovie-Agege, explained the rationale behind the sponsorship of the bill. He said the menace of sexual harassment has been there for a long time and has gone unchecked.
He explained: “Today is a landmark… for our wives, a landmark and for our daughters. You recall immediately I got into the Senate, the first and major bill I posted was a bill to prohibit sexual harassment of students in our tertiary institutions. We had a reason for doing that.
“We did that because we felt that this menace had been there for so long and it had gone unchecked, but we have had our daughters, our sisters, our nieces and wives and students who have been harassed and nothing was done. We had instances where students who ought to have graduated in 3-4 years, stayed for 5-6 years to graduate just because they said no to unwanted sexual advances from educators in these institutions.
“It took a lot of political will to club together the coalition that we brought on board to see to the successful conclusion of this bill. Today, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has made it clear that enough is enough and never again will sexual harassment be the norm or the order of the day in our tertiary institutions.”
Explaining the how Senate arrived at the five-year jail term, the Delta state born lawmaker said: “As you recall, when we pushed this bill, we actually proposed a punishment of three years and a fine of N1 million, but the Senate in its wisdom felt that even that was not enough and they wanted to send a stronger message and as a result of that they have increased the punishment from three years to five years and the fine from N1 million to N5 million or both.
“We have now removed the element of consent as a defence. As you know, most of you are familiar with the law. Consent is always a defence to a charge of rape. The way we make it statutory rape whether or not consent is given becomes immaterial and the prosecution will no longer have to prove whether or not the consent of the female was obtained.
“That is the case with minors and that is what we have achieved today with our female students in higher institutions. Now it is touch and go. You stay way from these girls. You touch them as a lecturer, you know there is a price to pay. Somebody describe it as a zip up legislation.”
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