It has taken several years and the concerted efforts of activists across the country, but the Sexual Harassment Bill 2020 has finally cleared its third reading and been passed into law. This is a big win for women everywhere but especially for women in academic institutions who have to endure targeted harassment from lecturers and other individuals whom the school system gives power over the students.The sexual harassment of female students has been a long discussed matter in social circles with rapper Eedris Abdulkareem releasing his early 2000’s hit ‘Mr Lecturer’ to examine the phenomenon and how it affects students. For far too long it was simply assumed that students had to endure unwanted attention from lecturers and essentially obey or risk being penalized or worse for their refusal.
But in 2019, the BBC documentary ‘Sex For Grades’ with investigative journalist and radio host Kiki Mordi, was able to expose the systematic privileges that have shielded lecturers who engage in this destructive and harmful behaviour, show that this phenomenon is not restricted to Nigerian universities and name particularly vicious abusers. Becoming a viral sensation and triggering important conversations, the BBC Sex For Grades documentary threw this hot topic back into the public eye and forced the Nigerian legislature to act on recommendations offered by women activists.
The push for the bill stalled in late 2019, with members of the academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) pushing against reform directly through public statements and indirectly through intimidation of students. It is inspiring to see that despite their best efforts, the matter was still seen through and passed into law by the Nigerian senate.
What does this mean for offenders?
Prosecution if convicted, removal from the office of power that led to abuse in the first place and justice for victims of assault. These seem like very reasonable odds, considering the outsize damage the egos and desires of authority figures who misuse that authority in their interactions with students have caused.