The Senate Tuesday passed the Sexual Harassment Bill, 2020 (SB. 77), sponsored by the Deputy President of the Senate, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege and co-sponsored by 106 senators.
This followed the clause-by-clause consideration of the report of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
Titled, “A Bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions and for Matters Connected Therewith”, it was read for the first time on October 9, 2019 and scaled through Second Reading on November 6, 2019.
The bill which will now be transmitted to the House of Representatives for concurrence, prohibits sexual harassment of students in tertiary institutions and prescribes jail term ranging from two to 14 years for various degrees of offences.
Specifically, Section 10 (1) prescribes 14-year jail term or N5million fine or both for offenders.
When signed into law, any educator who whistles or winks at a student or makes sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique would be liable to two years imprisonment or a fine of N1million, if found guilty.
The same penalty is also meted out to any educator who sends pornographic messages, pictures or videos to a student.
Section 4 of the bill provides that “An educator commits an offence of sexual harassment where he/she: violates the fiduciary duty of care in Section 3 of this Bill; has sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or a prospective student; intimidates or creates a hostile or offensive environment for the student by soliciting for sex from the student or making sexual advances towards the student; directs or induces another person to commit any act of sexual harassment, under the provision of this bill, or conspires with another person in the commission of sexual harassment by another person without which it would not have been committed; grabs, hugs, kisses, rubs or strokes or touches or pinches the breasts or hair or lips or hips or buttocks or any other part of the body of a student”.
While Section 6 provides that students’ consent is not a defence for sexual relationship between an educator and a student, Section 5, however, excludes cases where both parties are legally married.
Presenting his report, Chairman of the committee, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), explained that contrary to claims by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that there are extant laws that can sufficiently address sexual harassment in the nation’s tertiary institutions, “We found out that there are no such laws in place. The only one that comes close to that is the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015, which is only applicable in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“This legislation is meant to address incidence of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions only, as there are other laws that address sexual offences in respect of persons under the age 18 years such as the Child’s Right Act, 2003”.
Section 16 mandates the administrative head of a tertiary institution to establish a seven-member Independent Sexual Harassment Prohibition Committee saddled with the responsibility of investigating reported cases of sexual harassment complaints among others.
It further prescribes a two-year jail term or N5million fine or both for administrative heads of institutions that fail to set up the panel.