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Senate Passes Bill Against Sexual Harassment In Tertiary Institutions

The Senate has passed the bill against sexual harassment in tertiary institutions.

The proposed legislation was sponsored by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege.

It is titled, “A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for matters concerned therewith, 2019.”

The bill was passed after it was read for third reading on Tuesday.

The upper chamber passed the bill after considering the report of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

Earlier, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC – Ekiti Central), in his presentation said the piece of legislation “attracted unprecedented support from not only Distinguished Senators as demonstrated by the 106 Senators that Co-sponsored the bill but an overwhelming number of Nigerians who see the bill as a necessary legislative intervention that will bring sanity and good order to the educator-student relationship in our tertiary institutions.”

According to the lawmaker, “the bill is not targeted at a particular community – the educators and that it does not interfere with the autonomy of the universities – rather, it is intended to reposition and strengthen our tertiary educational institutions to maintain the core values of etiquette and excellence.”

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He added that with the passage of the bill, the piece of legislation will bridge the huge gap and give legal backing to any internal rule by educational institutions to check the incidences of sexual harassment.

Bamidele stated that contrary to ASUU’s claim that there are extant laws that can sufficiently address sexual harassment in tertiary institutions, the Committee found that there are no such laws.

Lawmakers during the clause by clause consideration of the bill, however differed on the retention of clause seven in the bill.

Omo-Agege, who proposed an amendment to clause 7, argued that it was unnecessary for the prosecution to prove the intention of the accused person or the condition under which the act of sexual harassment was carried out.

According to him, the commission of sexual harassment was sufficient to try any educator accused of a sexual offence.

Lawmakers such as the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (APC – Kebbi North) and Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC – Nasarawa West), however, argued on the contrary that should the bill make it unnecessary for the prosecutor to prove the intention of any accused person in a sexual harassment trial, same would lower the requisite standards obtainable in criminal proceedings.

According to Senator James Manager (PDP – Delta South), going ahead to pass the bill without making it compulsory for prosecutors to prove the intention of the accused person in a sexual harassment case, may expose educators to blackmail.

The lawmakers while voting on clause seven, voted for its retention as contained in the bill and recommended by the Committee.

The clause provides for strict liability which makes it necessary for prosecutors to prove the intention of the accused, as well as the condition under which the act of sexual harassment was carried out.

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