Daniel K/TnTv Network
The senate has passed the Sexual harassment bill 2020. The bill was sponsored by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege prohibits the offense of sexual harassment of students in tertiary institutions.
It also criminalizes the act of neglect or failure of administrative heads of tertiary educational institutions to address complaints of sexual harassment within a specified period.
Similarly, the bill creates a strict liability offence by removing mutual consent as a defence in the prosecution of sexual harassment cases in tertiary educational institutions and maintain the fiduciary relationship that exists between educators and students.
When signed into law, any educator who whistles or winks at a student or makes sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique would be liable to two years imprisonment or a fine of N1million, if found guilty.
The same penalty is also meted out to any educator who sends pornographic messages, pictures or videos to a student.
Section 4 of the bill provides that “An educator commits an offence of sexual harassment where he/she: violates the fiduciary duty of care in Section 3 of this Bill; has sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or a prospective student; intimidates or creates a hostile or offensive environment for the student by soliciting for sex from the student or making sexual advances towards the student; directs or induces another person to commit any act of sexual harassment, under the provision of this bill, or conspires with another person in the commission of sexual harassment by another person without which it would not have been committed; 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”.
While Section 6 provides that students’ consent is not a defence for sexual relationship between an educator and a student, Section 5, however, excludes cases where both parties are legally married.
According to the bill, any person who commits the offences of sexual harassment of students shall in conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for 14 years or to a fine of N5million or both.
The proposed legislation also creates a strict liability Offences by removing mutual consent as a defense in the prosecution of sexual harassment cases in tertiary educational institutions and maintain the fiduciary relationship that exists between educators and students.
Presenting his report, Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele says stakeholders at the public hearing opined that sexual harassment at tertiary institutions has reached an epidemic level hence the importance of this bill.
The Lawmaker further explained that contrary to claims by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that there are extant laws that can sufficiently address sexual harassment in the nation’s tertiary institutions, “We found out that there are no such laws in place. The only one that comes close to that is the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015, which is only applicable in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“This legislation is meant to address incidence of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions only, as there are other laws that address sexual offences in respect of persons under the age 18 years such as the Child’s Right Act, 2003”.
Section 16 mandates the administrative head of a tertiary institution to establish a seven-member Independent Sexual Harassment Prohibition Committee saddled with the responsibility of investigating reported cases of sexual harassment complaints among others.
Lawmakers took turns to throw their weight behind provisions of the billDuring the clause by clause consideration of the bill
Recall that the bill was introduced by Omo-Agege during the 8th Senate and was re-introduced in the 9th senate by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege on 19th day of October 2019. The bill scaled second reading on the 6th of November 2019.