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.
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.
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