The panelists on ending sexual harassment in educational institutions have called for stringent measures and the enforcement of various laws against rape and sexual harassment.
The discussants made the call on Thursday, 7 March 2019 after a film screening of a documentary on “The Hunting Ground” organised by the U.S. Embassy in Abuja.
“The Hunting Ground” examines the issue of sexual assault in U.S. universities, the role of the institutions and the effect on victims and their families.
The documentary was used to create awareness and find solutions to ending sexual harassment in educational institutions within Nigeria. It aimed at inspiring new laws and changes in campus policy.
One of the panelists, Dorothy Njemane, a rights activist and Chief Executive Officer of the Dorothy Njemane Foundation, said that sexual harassment and rape thrived due to the lack of enforcement of relevant laws and sanctions against the crime. Njemane, who stated that she was a victim of rape and sexual harassment, stressed that the perpetrators of the crime most often went scott free because of weak legal structures in the country and the inability of security agents to enforce the law.
She said that victims of rape and sexual harassment usually did not get justice because many a time they have found it difficult to speak out due to stigmatisation.
The rights activist said it was time victims made noise about the crime, urging them not give in to factors such as religious belief, cultural and societal influence that aid perpetrators in escaping the wrath of law.
“Rape hurts, sexual harassment demoralises, hence there is no justification for hurting or making excuses for the evil of others,” she stated
Another panelist, Dr. Ganiyat Adeshina, the Dean of Social Sciences and Head of Department at the National Open University Abuja, said that there was no concrete policy against sexual harassment in Nigerian institutions of learning.
“There is need to take holistic approach against this menace in our higher institutions because most universities do not have policies on rape or sexual harassment of students.”
“We also need to review some of the laws on rape and sexual harassment that will not give easy way of escape for the perpetrators.”
She said that there is need for the right policies in place to address rape and sexual harassment in the country.
According to her, there should be police stations on campus that takes care of sexual harassment and rape in higher institutions.
Another discussant, Fakhriyya Hasim, from Arewa Me 2 Foundation, also called on victims of sexual harassment, especially from the Northern part of the country to speak out. Hasim said that the awareness of relevant laws against sexual harassment and rape is low and there is a need to increase it. She said this would encourage victims to take appropriate action and give warning to the-would-be perpetrators.
Other participants, including secondary school students, who were victims of sexual harassment and rape also bore their minds on the issue.
Some of the girls, who craved anonymity, said that they could not speak out because of stigmatisation and threats by the perpetrators that their lives would be taken should they choose to do so.