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Friday, 3 June 2016

Pass the sexual harassment Bill pronto

 It is not surprising that the Sexual Harassment Bill before the Nigerian Senate has elicited passionate reactions from the public. The Bill is sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of Labour Party, representing Delta Central Senatorial District alongside 57 other senators, and is aptly titled: “A Bill For An Act To Make Provisions For The Prohibition Of Sexual Harassment Of Students,” In other words, students are the primary focus of the Bill, which has passed its second reading in the Senate and has been referred to its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further action. While presenting the Bill, Senator Omo-Agege had noted that when passed into law it would help to check the menace of sexual harassment of students in Nigerian higher institutions by those who are supposed to mentor them academically and morally. According to him: “This 8th Senate will be sending a very strong message that ‘enough is enough,’ that never again will our students be left at the mercy of the few sexual predators in our tertiary institutions.” But as the Senate began considering the Bill, some other senators who had bought into it wanted its scope widened to include sexual harassment of individuals in places other than the school environment. The argument is that the Bill should not be tailor-made to prescribe or stipulate stiff penalties against only randy lecturers when many sexual predators are on the loose in the larger society. Indeed sexual harassment, based on our past and current experiences, has no borders as reports from the news media have proved. Cases abound even in the most unlikely places, including government and private offices, markets, bus-stops and places of worship. We support, without reservations, the passage of this Bill into law as soon as possible. Those who argue about “provocative dressing” by female students should be reminded that the university environment is a place for mature adults. So long as anyone’s dressing does not offend the law, “provocative dressing” is no justification for the epidemic of sexual harassment of students. Only stiff penalties for offenders will reduce to the minimum the unbridled moral turpitude and outright sexual criminality that has for long enveloped our institutions of higher learning. Beyond this, however, we believe that the society (made up of the family, the school, the religious groups and the government) owes it as a duty to nurture an ethical and moral culture that will foster responsible and decent behaviour among young people, including the way they comport themselves before others. If the truth be told, the indecent manner many young Nigerian females dress these days leaves much to be desired, no thanks to their addiction to the pop culture imported from Europe and America.