By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
The Director-General National Centre for Women Development, Abuja, Mary Ekpere-Eta ESQ has said that the passage of the bill to criminalize sexual harassment of female students in tertiary institutions in Nigeria by the Senate stands is a poignant moment in push for women empowerment.
She expressed this in a statement she personay signed and made available to newsmen on Saturday July 11, 2020, hailing the Senate for the action.
“I like other critical stakeholders attended the public hearing on this important law. I am glad that our voices were heard, as we fully supported the bill which will act a legal frame work for protecting female students from unprofessional lecturers who practice and promote the dehumanizing culture of sex-for-grades.
“I commend the senate and the sponsor of the bill, the Deputy President of the Senate, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege for spearheading this pivotal law,” she said.
She therefore, called on the House of Representatives to emulate same gesture.
” I call on the House of Representatives to pass the bill on time in order for President Muhammadu Buhari to sign into law in the nearest future.
“Nigerian girls and women face different challenges in their quest for educations.
“We still have places in our country were girls are overlooked when poor families are compelled to pick the children who will be sponsored in school. We have stories of girls dropping out of school because they or other girls they know are raped in footpaths that lead to their schools.
“We also have girls who are married off at a young age to save money in their homes. It is girls who are sent out to hawk wares to augment their family’s income despite the fact that their exposed to danger,” she said.
She noted that it is gratifying that after women some of whom face the above challenges to make it into tertiary institutions, they will not have to contend with lecturers who harass them for sex , as a condition for passing their exams.
She also commended the National Assembly on its plan to host a public hearing on Sexual and Gender Based Violence for which it appointed the women’s legislative hero, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege and another strong supporter of women’s rights, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.
“I believe that issues of rape, sexual abuse and sexual harassment will again be discussed with the goal of developing legislative instruments to curb the spike in sexual assault, as well as lead the call for states to domesticate other laws that protect women such as the Childs Right Act and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act.
“Again I thank the 9th Assembly for prioritizing the protection of women’s rights and express the appreciation of Nigerian women, many of whom have shared their joy on the unprecedented level of concern and support shown by the National Assembly under the leadership of the Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan.
” The bill against sexual harassment in tertiary institutions passed by the Senate on Tuesday, prohibits the offense of sexual harassment of students in tertiary institutions and criminalizes the act of neglect or failure of administrative heads of tertiary educational institutions to address complaints of sexual harassment within a specified period of time.
“The proposed legislation also creates strict liability offences by removing mutual consent as a defense in the prosecution of sexual harassment cases in tertiary educational institutions and maintains the fiduciary relationship that exists between educators and students.
“It stipulates that any person who commits the offences of sexual harassment of students listed under the Bill shall in conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for 14 years or to a fine of five million Naira or both,” she concluded.