THE Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) has called for the review of laws against sexual harassment in workplaces in the country.
Bunmi Olugasa, the Project Officer and Special Assistant to the ICPC Chairman, made the call when a women and girls-based non-governmental organisation, HEIR Women Hub, paid an advocacy visit to the Commission in Abuja.
Olugasa noted that the ICPC Act prohibits the use of office positions for sexual aggrandisement, adding that it is an offence punishable under the law.
Calling for the review of the laws, she said, “There are several gaps in the law. Yes societies are dynamic but our society makes it easy for perpetrators to escape justice.
“The clamour should be on the review of the laws but unfortunately we have learnt over time that when you improve the law, criminals also look for ways to beat the law and thereby beat justice.
“The ICPC Act clearly stated that anybody who uses his office to confer any kind of corrupt advantage on himself for benefit is guilty of an offence.
“What they consider as gratification in this instance is sexual favour. Yes it is corruption as far as there is an abuse of office.
“When using the position of office to intimidate somebody, making the environment unconducive such that the person is forced to submit to your request is an abuse of power and the law states clearly that it is an offence.”
She further expressed concern that many Nigerians are ignorant of some crimes and so see such activities as a norm.
“Instances where a boss continually hits the buttocks of a female staff, most do not see this as harassment, and these things we realise are very uncomfortable and sometimes impede on one’s productivity and this needs to be addressed,” she said.
Also speaking, the Assistant Director, Public Enlightenment and Mass Mobilization Department of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Esther Akor, said sexual harassment should be addressed by the Human Resource Department in organisations.
“Many ladies have lost their jobs in private organisations from speaking out while others face other challenges in the public sector.
“Therefore, enforcers should be put in place to seek redress in case of any of these.”
The Executive Director of HEIR Women Hub, Añuli Aniebo Ola-Olaniyi, decried the lack of data on workplace sexual harassment in Nigeria.
She said, “We just feel we need our own data in Nigeria as most times we use the global data from UN but we need to know how it affects us here in our climate, Nigeria, to enable us proffer long-lasting solutions with the aim of totally eradicating this from our society.”