The Senate, on Tuesday, passed a bill that seeks to prohibit sexual harassment of students in tertiary institutions.
The Sexual Harassment Bill, 2020, among others, also seeks to create a strict liability offence by removing mutual consent, as a defence in the prosecution of sexual harassment cases in tertiary educational institutions.
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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had opposed the bill for failing to take cognizance of the various extant legislation that deals with the issue of sexual harassment.
ASUU National Chairman, Dr Biodun Ogunyemi, had said during a public hearing on the proposed legislation in February: “If we have a law that addresses the issue of sexual harassment, why are we wasting time talking about another law.
“Are we also going to formulate separate laws to address the problem of corruption in the universities, to address sexual harassment in the police, in the National Assembly?”
The passage followed consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, chaired by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central).
Opeyemi, in his report, said sexual harassment had reached an epidemic level in tertiary institutions, blaming the rising cases on the absence of legislation to mitigate the menace.
According to him, the committee observed that sexual harassment in tertiary institutions is one of the major factors responsible for the decline in academic excellence in the country, as hard work, merits and transparency have been compromised by this trend.
“Hard work, merits and transparency have been compromised by this ugly trend, which has provided a hostile learning environment for students, thereby creating an enabling atmosphere for mediocrity, indiscipline and inefficiency in our tertiary institutions,” he said.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in his closing remarks, said the Red Chamber wanted tertiary institutions to be a safe and peaceful learning environment for everyone.
“This legislation will ensure that wish,” he said.