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Promoting Good Governance.

Sexual Harassment Bill prescribes 14 years imprisonment, N5m fine for offenders

THE Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Bill, 2019, also known as Sexual Harassment Bill, sponsored by Ovie Omo-Agege, the Deputy Senate President, has proposed up to 14 years imprisonment and N5 million fine for offenders.

The Bill, which was first introduced in the 8th Senate and reintroduced in the 9th Senate on October 9, 2019, passed third reading on Tuesday, standing as the single legislation enacted to promote and protect ethical standards in tertiary education as well as the sanctity of the student-educator fiduciary relationship.

The objectives of the Bill include the protection of students against sexual harassment, prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment of students by educators in tertiary educational institutions.

Containing 25 clauses, the Bill spells out the offences and penalties for educators who engage in sexual harassment of students in tertiary institutions.

Among its list of offences, it considers sexual intercourse, harassment and demand for sex from a student or prospective student an offence and pronounces guilty educators be sentenced to an imprisonment term of up to 14 years but not less than five years, without an option of a fine.

The Bill also posits that an educator passing advances or sending unsolicited photos to a student is guilty of a felon and is liable on conviction to an imprisonment term of up to five years but not less than two years, without an option of a fine. And it is immaterial if a student consents to the act.

The Bill also states that independent investigations must be carried out by institutions as cases arise, and prescribes that the administrative head of an institution shall establish an Independent Sexual Harassment Prohibition Committee in consultation with the highest management body of the institution.

It adds that the membership of the Sexual Harassment Prohibition Committee shall be seven staff members of the institution, including a chairman as well as at least two students, two non-academic staff members and two academic staff members of the institution. The membership is required to include at least three females.

In a case where the committee is set up against the standard set up in the Bill, it proposes that the head of administration is liable on conviction to a minimum fine of N5 million or imprisonment for five years, or both.

The anti-sexual harassment bill was originally introduced in 2016 but didn’t pass through the assembly.

Critics rejected the bill because it did not cover sexual harassment in the workplace and included defence for consent. The defence for consent has been removed from the latest bill.

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