At a radio programme on the subject of Sexual Harassment, four discussants were invited to share their experiences and perspectives on the said subject. Three of them had experienced sexual harassment at some point or the other while the fourth was to shed light on the position of the law regarding sexual harassment. The Interviewer/Moderator introduced the topic by defining sexual harassment as described by Wikipedia as “a type of harassment involving the use of explicit or implicit sexual overtones, including the unwelcome and inappropriate promises of rewards in exchange for sexual favours. sexual harassment includes a range of actions from verbal transgressions to sexual abuse or assault”. She further added that sexual harassment can occur in so many different settings such as the workplace, home, school, church etc. harassers or victims may be of any sex or gender. However, the preponderance of reported victims are female. She welcomed Shalewa, Jolomi, Tayo and Balami to the show.
Shalewa opened the discussion by sharing her experience as an undergraduate student where she experienced harassment by the Dean of her Faculty in her final year. One day, he summoned her to his office and calmly told her that if she wanted to graduate that year, she needed to accept his hitherto rebuffed advances. Of course, the rest is history as she yielded to the pressure.
Moderator: “But, couldn’t you have called his bluff and reported him to the school authorities? Or gone public with it”.
Jolomi interrupts : “It’s not that easy, mind you, she needed to graduate. He wielded his authority over her”.
Shalewa explains:” I come from a financially underprivileged background and was seen as the beacon of hope the family had. I couldn’t allow ANYTHING stop my dream especially as I knew how hard it was to get my fees paid. I really was in a quandary and felt I had no option. Besides, it would have been my word against his, it didn’t happen in this digital era you know”.
Jolomi takes it from there: “In my case , my experience was in the workplace where a male colleague was always ogling me, making sexually explicit comments like “I dream of what you’d be like in bed” and seeking the slightest opportunity to brush against me. I made a report about this to the Head of Human Resources who incidentally was male, but he ignored it. I resigned and opted out of the organisation”.
Tayo interjects with a laugh.:” Don’t ever think this harassment thing only affects females o! You can’t imagine my shock, when the Proprietress/Managing Director to whom I was a Personal Assistant, turned her gaze on me and started initially by making sexual insinuations and connotations which I pretended to not understand. She became emboldened and brazenly threatened to sack me if we did not have a relationship. I was still single and she was a divorced mother of two”.
Moderator: Hmmm… Balami, can you give us the position of the Law with regards to Sexual harassment and useful advice for victims of this serious and prevalent menace. .
Balami clears his throat and begins: “The position of the Law is clear on this as Sexual harassment is not condoned by the law courts.
- Sexual abuse constitutes a violation of human rights under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as S. 34 of the Constitution speaks to the right to dignity of a person and S.42, the right to freedom from discrimination. Sexual harassment is a violation of one’s human rights and s therefore actionable in law.
- Both the Criminal Code (applicable in the Southern states of Nigeria) and the Penal Code (applicable in the Northern states, make sexual harassment a punishable CRIMINAL offence.
- In addition, various states have enacted their unique laws that address this menace e.g The Kaduna State Penal Code Law, 2017, S.262 and the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.
Chapter 25 of the Lagos State Law provides for Sexual offences and states under S.262 as follows:
(1) “Any person who sexually harasses another is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three (3) years.
(2) Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favours, and other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which when submitted to or rejected –
(a) Implicitly or explicitly affects a person’s employment or educational opportunity or unreasonable interferes with the person’s work or educational performance
(b) Implicitly or explicitly suggests that submission to or rejection of the conduct will be a factor in academic or employment decisions or
(c) Creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive learning or working environment”.
With particular emphasis on sexual harassment in the workplace, The National Industrial Court whose jurisdiction it is to handle Labour and Employment related matters, under Order 14 of its practice rules, recognizes sexual harassment in the workplace as an actionable offence. The renowned case of Ejike Maduka vs Microsoft which established the liability of employers and employees alike, for cases of workplace sexual harassment in Nigeria, is a case in point.
In view of the foregoing, my advice to victims of sexual harassment is that they should be bold to report it, escalate it within the establishment. The place of the Law is that an employer can be held vicariously liable for the sexual harassment committed by its employees and every employer has a duty to have a policy on sexual harassment and must investigate reported cases in line with such policy.
It however behooves on the victim to prove:
- That the behaviour complained against is connected to sex or gender.
- That the conduct is severe or pervasive (it goes beyond being simply annoying).
- The behaviour is unwelcome, persistent, discomfiting, hostile or intimidating.
- The liability of the aggressor, whether the offender or his employer”.
Moderator: ’Thank you Mr. Balami. Unfortunately, some persons claim that such harassment is usually caused by the overt or covert invitation of the victim by their actions, dressing etc. In other words, there is nothing like sexual harassment, it is only an excuse when things go south/sour. Can I have your parting words on this”?
Shalewa: ”Sexual harassment is a sad reality and commonplace in institutions of learning”.
Jolomi : ”Undoubtedly, it is also common in the workplace”.
Tayo: “It most certainly exists and is not limited to the womenfolk”.
Balami: “The Law undoubtedly recognises it so it is a fact and certainly not myth”.
2 thoughts on “SEXUAL HARASSMENT- FACT OR MYTH”
Sexual harassment is very real and should always be reported. Thank God that work places have laws regarding this. In some workplaces though, it’s not followed up but good companies that don’t want litigation on their hands that could cost them will take it up and correct the situation. It behooves both sexes to act responsibly.
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It’s definitely a fact and not a myth with the vast majority of victims female but as Taco said, let’s not forget that we have male victims as well
Thank God it’s enshrined in the law and so we need more victims to speak out and take matters to court if need be so harassers can be punished and used to deter others who might want to engage in such acts
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