Sexual Harassment in Institutions of Higher Learning in Nigeria

Andrace
Posted October 7, 2020

There is a saying in my community that one can only bend a fish while it is fresh and wet, or else it would break when dry. Probably, this explains why I am especially attracted to young adults and enjoy mentoring, as I find the experience symbiotic because of the exchange of knowledge. Many times, my engagements are at University ceremonies which I have had the privilege of anchoring as part of my routine at work. Other times, I honour invitations to give talks at other institutions of higher learning such as the one titled Sexual Harassment in Institutions of Higher Learning in Nigeria, from which I share bits and pieces.

Do you recall the creation story in the bible which mentioned Adam and Even as the first #male and #female of the human race? Often, when opposite sexes of the human race interact, some level of sexual attraction is not uncommon. Howbeit, mutual interest, and reciprocity are pertinent to establish civilized and socially-acceptable sexual behaviour, or else, this attraction could be misguided and lead to sexual harassment.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Onoyase (2019) states that “sexual harassment refers to sexual advances made by male lecturers and male non –academic staff to female students which could be verbal or non –verbal.” Another description “includes any inappropriate sexual overture, subtle and unsubtle persistent behaviour, assault and actual sexual abuse that may be expressed physically, verbally or non-verbally, usually from someone with a higher power or at a vantage position to less a privileged person (Taiwo et al. 2014).”

Sexual Harassment in Institutions of Higher Learning

Universities typically provide undergraduate and postgraduate education admitting both gender (male and female). Knowledge transfer is done through lectures or other platforms, during which friction and intimidation may occur. For example, the case of a male lecturer who abuses female students for grades or even a female lecturer to male students in very rare cases. Sexual harassment in schools has been described as the unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that makes the victim feel uncomfortable, fearful, or powerless, and interferes with his or her school work. Painfully, sexual harassment is a global issue that has eaten deep into the fabric of higher education institutions and many work-places and is not limited to Africa alone.

The Challenge of Sexual Harassment

As a global challenge, sexual harassment deserves to be main-streamed into the academic curriculum, particularly for reducing vulnerability among students and increasing access to restorative care of victims. Universities in Ghana and Tanzania, for example, have already integrated sexual harassment into course modules on gender, power, and sex to address the challenge of sex for grades.

Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Prohibition Bill in Nigeria

A bill titled the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Prohibition Bill was introduced to the Nigerian Senate in 2016, for the prohibition of sexual harassment of students and related matters by educators in tertiary educational institutions. However, this bill was only passed in July 2020 and it is yet to be signed into law.

Who Can Run Foul?

Section 3 of this Sexual Harassment Bill states that “a relationship of authority, dependency, and trust shall be construed to exist between an educator and a student in an institution if the educator is directly or indirectly involved in the full-time or part-time academic training, teaching, advising, supervising and education of the student; or the educator has direct or indirect academic or non-academic authority over the student; or the student depends, directly or indirectly, on the educator in any manner whatsoever.” However, those legally married are exempted.

Conclusion

Although #sexual harassment is multidimensional, more often, it arises from unequal power relation culminating in #gender-based violence and the violation of #human rights. In most cases, the harasser is usually older, powerful, and dangles something of value that is beneficial to the harassed. Howbeit, perpetrators can and should be reported since virtually all campuses in Nigeria present the opportunity to report confidentially. Unfortunately, perpetrators never seem to learn from the past as many instances ought to have since served as a deterrent. Nonetheless, I hope that the British Broadcasting Corporation's Sex for Grades Africa Eye report would at least remind sexual harassers that nemesis would catch up with them soon.

 

 

 

Sources

Bible Gateway passage: Proverbs 22:6 - New International Version. (n.d.). Retrieved October 07, 2020, from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=proverbs+22%3A6

Cantalupo, N. C., & Kidder, W. C. (2018). A systematic look at a serial problem: Sexual harassment of students by university faculty. Utah L. Rev., 671.

Taiwo M. O, Omole O. C, Omole O. E, Sexual Harassment and Psychological Consequence among Students in Higher Education Institution in Osun State, Nigeria, International Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 4 No. 1, 2014, pp. 13-18. doi: 10.5923/j.ijap.20140401.02.

Onoyase, A. (2019). Prevalence of Sexual Harassment of Female Students of Tertiary Education in Taraba State, North East Nigeria: Implications for Counselling. International Journal of Higher Education, 8(1), 77-83.

'Sex for grades': Undercover in West African universities. (n.d.). Retrieved October 07, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/video_and_audio/headlines/49907376/sex-for-grad...

Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Prohibition Bill, 2016. (2016, October 28). Retrieved from https://lawpavilion.com/blog/sexual-harassment-in-tertiary-educational-i...

TY-Computer. (2018, January 02). Study of Sexual Harassment Among  Undergraduate Female Students of University of Nigeria Nsukka. Retrieved from http://www.uniprojects.com.ng/2018/01/study-of-sexual-harassment-among.html

This story was submitted in response to World Pulse Digital Ambassadors.

Comments 8

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Nini Mappo
Oct 09, 2020
Oct 09, 2020

Hello sis E.J.,
We have the same saying too in Kenya, but ours is about bending a bow, and that trying to bend it when dry only breaks it!
Good on you for investing your energies to mentor young people, so that they can establish values and gain tools to navigate life with purpose and impact. It is a shame that the problem of sexual harassment persists. That is why your reminder on the complementary nature of the sexes when power is well balanced reinforces hope, that with mentoring, empowering girls and continued advocacy, male and female can coexists without fear or exploitation.
Happy mentoring dear E.J., may you 'bend' many 'fish' :)

Andrace
Oct 10, 2020
Oct 10, 2020

Thank you so much, Sis. It is interesting how sayings cut across Africa. Let us hope and pray that the issue of sexual harassment keeps getting attention till it becomes a thing of the past.

You ought to have seen the huge smile on my face with the fish joke :)

Enjoy your weekend, Sis.
Love and hugs,
E. J.

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Oct 29, 2020
Oct 29, 2020

Hello, E.J.,

You are one powerful woman who is a mentor to the younger generation. Now, I am more convinced you should start your own organization. You wrote about your charity campaign in your previous post, and here you share you've been mentoring the next generation. Maybe that is what God is telling you to do, dear. A step of faith will lead open doors.

I don't know but that was what happened when I embraced the idea of a revolution of encouragers, then the Aspire opportunity came, then the book idea, and who knows what next. It's just one step at a time. If this confirms in your Spirit, then probably this is the direction God wants you to go.

Oh, I digress. Haha.
This post is about sexual harassment. Yes, you are right it is actually about power. Men wanting to feel powerful over a woman. This is an important topic that girls (and even boys) need to know so they can protect themselves and know what to do for prevention.

Thank you for filling the World Pulse space with your well-written posts. Another idea: write a book.:D

Andrace
Oct 31, 2020
Oct 31, 2020

Thank you for your time, Kaye. 'Appreciate and love all your comments. I enjoyed laughing at the 'digression'. Waiting for you to launch your book soon. You really need to. Your story is truly inspiring. Let's all make lemonades from the lemons life throws at us!:)

Love and hugs,
E. J.

Paulina Nayra
Oct 30, 2020
Oct 30, 2020

Dear Andrace,
Thank you for sharing about the progress of the sexual harassment bill in Nigeria. Sexual harassment in higher education institutions is a reality. It's grade or date. And the student who is afraid to get a failing grade will just agree to an unwanted date. Hope it will be signed into law soonest so the maniac professor will have their day in court.
Huggs.

Andrace
Oct 30, 2020
Oct 30, 2020

Thank you for your comment, Maama Paulina. Very well-captured... "It's grade or date". Although the bill has somewhat been signed into law now, the workings of our legal system is another mouthful. 'Really pitiable.

Nonetheless, we shall not be silenced.

Kind regards for a restful weekend,
E. J.

KABAHENDA KIGGUNDU
Nov 15, 2020
Nov 15, 2020

Hello Andrace,

I hear you loud and clear my dear sister. The problem of sexual harassment in tertiary and institutions of higher learning has been problem Nigeria and other African countries has been going on for a very long time.

I applaud your for what you are doing to raise awareness and be a point of contact for those that are in great need of your services.
I feel a sense of optimism though given the "me-too" movement in the United States, and the fact that many women in some African countries are now saying that "enough is enough."
It is going to be an uphill task but it is up to us African women with the help of some men to form a continental collective aimed at ending the scourge of sexual harassment in schools, colleges, and universities.

Would you champion of such a collective? I encourage you to do it and you will have my full support.

More power to you sister.

Andrace
Nov 16, 2020
Nov 16, 2020

Thank you, Sweet Sis. I appreciate your encouragement. An uphill task truly, but doable with the assurance that together, we can. :)

Love and hugs,
E. J.