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ASUU, students, women groups differ on Sexual Harassment Bill

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday disagreed with students of tertiary institutions and women groups on the need to make a separate law to curb sexual harassment in schools.

ASUU National President Professor Abiodun Ogunyemi and the groups made opposing submissions during a public hearing on the “Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions (Prohibition) Bill, 2019” at the National Assembly in Abuja.

The Bill was sponsored by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege.

The event was organised by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, chaired by Opeyemi Bamidele.

While Ogunyemi rejected the Bill, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and other women rights advocacy groups at the session supported it.

Ogunyemi argued that it would amount to “proliferation” and “repetition” of legislations to make a separate law against sexual harassment in tertiary institutions.

“I am not sure this is the best of times for academics. If we go the way we are going, very soon nobody would be proud of his or her former teacher. We shall all discredit our teachers and, by so doing, we shall also degrade the value and integrity of our certificates,”he said.

NANS National President, who was represented by the Director Research, Strategy, Planning and Documentation, Victor Essien, said the power dynamics between students and lecturers predisposes female students to incessant sexual harassment.

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He said a committee set up by NANS national executive on assumption of office had received over 2,000 complaints of sexual harassment of female students by lecturers.

The students’ union leader described sexual harassment as an epidemic in the mould of the Corona Virus Disease (Covid-19) in China.

The Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA); International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA); Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Deputy Speaker Felicia Bassey; Chairman of Nsit Atai Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Emem Ibanga, among others, supported the Bill.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan said sexual harassment and intimidation was not just a sexual offence but a criminal offence.

“As citizens, we must have a common responsibility to fight the menace,” Lawan said.

Bamidele said the only reason the parliament existed was to continuously make new laws and amend existing ones.

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