OrderPaperToday – Deputy Senate President and sponsor of the Bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit, and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Institutions, Ovie Omo-Agege, has addressed concerns raised in certain quarters that the bill targets a certain group of people, saying it is not discriminatory against anyone.
Speaking during the second reading of the bill on Wednesday, he countered arguments raised in certain quarters against the bill, arguing that it is aimed at protecting students from sexual harassment.
“It has been suggested by a few that somehow this bill unduly targets a segment of the society and is, therefore, discriminatory. Without question, this (bill) is right and unapologetically so. That argument is unsupported by the basic jurisprudence of criminal law which is the targeting of an identified class of offenders for sanctioning, correction, and deterrence.
“The bad eggs in the identified class tormenting the life of our female students may have thought that we would turn a blind eye to their iniquities or be intimidated but we are now proving them wrong by this bill – one that President Buhari has publicly indicated his interest to assent to when passed by the National Assembly,” he declared.
Omo-Agege also disclosed that some advocates have suggested the extension of this bill to cover primary and secondary schools but he decided to reject the proposal because there are already laws in place for addressing such issues.
“Knowing that strict penal liability already attached to sexual harassment of minors in primary and secondary schools in extant laws, I must subject my passion to the law. It is equally not necessary to extend this bill to cover similar fiduciary relationships especially priest-congregant, employer-employee, father-daughter, and warder-prisoner because the criminal and penal codes already adequately deals with these categories with sufficient clarity,” he stated.
In cases of students who may falsely accuse their lecturers of sexual harassment, the deputy speaker explained that the bill proposes that such students should be expelled and the lecturers involved are at liberty to sue the student in court for defamation of character.
Speaking further, Omo-Agege disclosed that the bill forbids any sexual relationship between lecturers and students, and upgrades sexual intercourse in such relationships to statutory rape.
He also added that provocative dressing or consent from a student will not suffice as a defence for the lecturer, citing examples of similar legislation in the United States, United Kingdom and South Africa.
Several senators expressed support for the bill before it was read for a second time and referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to report back in two weeks.