Subsequent to the BBC sex for grade documentary indicting university professors of sexually molesting their students, the Sexual Harassment Bill, 2019 (SB. 77) sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege has been read for the First Time on the floor of the Senate.
According to the Deputy Senate President, “I am wholly convinced that the unique student-educator relationship of authority, dependency and trust should never be violated.
By the maxim of ‘loco parentis’, educators are like parents. They owe a special fiduciary duty of care to students under their authority – students who trust and depend on them to shape their future career paths. It must therefore be extremely offensive to a reasonable mind where an educator treats students as ‘perquisites’ of his office. As a father, it is an issue that I cannot just accept. It is a shame on our conscience as a people. We will stop it. …”
The Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal of Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Bill, 2019 which is co-sponsored by 106 other senators specifically makes it a criminal offence for any educator in a university, polytechnic or any other tertiary educational institution to violate or exploit the student-lecturer fiduciary relationship for sexual pleasures.
The Bill imposes stiff penalties on offenders in it’s overall objective of providing tighter statutory protection for students against sexual hostility and all forms of sexual harassment in tertiary schools.
The Bill provides a compulsory five-year jail term for lecturers who sexually harass students. When passed into law, vice chancellors of universities, rectors of polytechnics and other chief executives of institutions of higher learning will go to jail for two years if they fail to act within a week on complaints of sexual harassment made by students.
The Bill expressly allows sexually harassed students, their parents, or guardians to seek civil remedies in damages against sexual predator lecturers before or after their successful criminal prosecution by the State.
The Bill also seeks protection from sexual harassment for prospective students seeking admissions into higher educational institutions, students of generally low mental capacity and physically challenged students.
The Bill also stipulates as offences solicitation of sex or sexual advances by lecturers which result to intimidation, hostile or offensive environment for students. It makes provision for “institutional disciplinary procedures” to be followed by any sexually harassed student to report or submit a formal sexual harassment complaint within a tertiary institution to the administrative head of the institution. Administrative heads of tertiary academic institutions are mandated under the bill to protect students who made sexual harassment complaints from any form of victimisation in their learning.
Senator Omo-Agege believes that students, regardless of age are incapable of giving voluntary consent to unwelcomed sexual advances or demands for sexual favours by lecturers in any student-lecturer fiduciary relationship. A lecturer occupies a position of huge public trust in a student-lecturer fiduciary relationship. That relationship is a delicate one. We know of students with strong character who reject demand for sexual favours and are punished by making them fail in exams that they ordinarily passed. That should never happen. Senator Omo-Agege believes strongly that as parents, legislators owe our children a solemn duty to pass very tough and clear laws to protect our children against sexual perverts masquerading as teachers.