The Senate on Thursday passed a bill seeking to end sexual harassment in educational institutions.
The bill, which was read a third time and passed by the senate during plenary, followed a report of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on the bill titled “Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Institution Bill 2016.”
It was read by Sen. David Umaru (APC-Niger).
The sponsor of the Bill, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege, (PDP-Delta), who spoke to reporters on the bill shortly after plenary, said he was delighted at the cooperation of his colleagues.
“As you recall when we pushed this bill, we actually proposed a punishment of three years in prison and a fine of N1 million, but the Senate in its wisdom felt that even that was not enough.
It wanted to send a stronger message and as a result of that have increased the punishment from three years to five years and the fine from N1 million to N5 million or both fine and imprisonment.
Today the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has made clear that enough is enough and never again will sexual harassment be the norm or the order of the day in our tertiary institutions,” Omo Agege said.
According to Omo-Agege the bill is meant to tackle the menace of sexual harassment in institutions.
We did that because we felt that this menace has been here for so long and it has gone unchecked but we have had our daughters, our sisters, our nieces and wives and students who have been harassed and nothing was done.
We had instances where students who ought to have graduated in three to four years, some of them have to stay for five to six years to graduate just because they said no to unwanted sexual advances from educators in these institutions.
He said that it took a lot of political will to bring together the coalition that saw the successful conclusion of the bill.
Omo-Agege explained that the Senate had made it clear that “enough was enough” and never again would sexual harassment be the norm or the order of the day in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions.
He added that rape-related offences have now been elevated to statutory rape because the element of consent has been removed.
“Consent is always a defence to a charge of rape. The way we have made it statutory rape means that whether or not consent is given becomes immaterial. And the prosecution will no longer have to prove whether or not the consent of the female was obtained,” he said.