OrderPaperToday – The Senate has passed for third reading a bill which seeks to protect students against sexual harassment by educators in tertiary educational institutions.
The bill, sponsored by Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, was reintroduced then read for the first time October 9, 2019 and scaled second reading on the 6th of November 2019.
During the public hearing of the bill, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) opposed the bill for being “too biased.”
The bill classifies sexual harassment offences which include grabbing, groping, sexting, winking among others.
Penalties vary according to the offence committed with a jail term of close to 14 years and no option of fine.
Presenting the report of the committee, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Sen. Bamidele Opeyemi noted that in the bill, there is nothing like mutual consent as contained in clause 7.
“It has been made an offence by removing mutual consent as a defence in prosecution of sexual harassment cases in tertiary educational institutions and maintain relationship that exists between educators and students with the aim of making our tertiary institutions conducive centres of learning.
“This bill seeks to tame the hydra-headed monster in the name of sexual harassment which has become a pandemic in our tertiary institutions”, he said.
It was highly debated as the bill also proposed that every suspect should be tried without proof even when the victim is not a minor.
The Senate leader, Yahaya Abdullahi and the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe however found the clause faulty noting that some female students might equally be guilty but the original provision was sustained when put to a voice vote.
More key takeaways of the bill can be found here.
In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan said: “We have to protect our daughters, sister and mothers from predators.
“We wanted means for determining what offence someone is accused of. It is a balanced legislation. We want our tertiary Institutions to be safe for everyone.”