The Senate on Wednesday debated two critical bills – the Sexual Harassment Bill and President Muhammadu Buhari’s Finance Bill, 2019.
The bills which scaled second reading on the floor of the Senate, were sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege and Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya, respectively.
The proposed legislation titled “A Bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions and for other matters connected therewith 2019” has 27 clauses.
According to a statement signed by the Special Assistant (Press) to President of the Senate, Ezrel Tabiowo, the bill proposes up to 14 years jail term, with a minimum of five years, without an option of fine for any educator who commits sexual offences in tertiary institutions.
It defines sexual offences as including: sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or a prospective student or intimidating or creating a hostile or offensive environment for the student by soliciting sex or making sexual advances.
Other forms of sexual harassment identified in the bill are grabbing, hugging, kissing, rubbing, stroking, touching, pinching the breasts or hair or lips or hips or buttocks or any other sensual part of the body of a student; or sending by hand or courier or electronic or any other means naked or sexually explicit pictures or videos or sex related objects to a student, and whistling or winking at a student or screaming, exclaiming, joking or making sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique or stalking a student.
Senator Omo-Agege, in his lead debate, said: “the most effective way to deal with the offence of sexual harassment in our tertiary institutions is to penalize the very impropriety of the act, with or without consent.”
On the extension of the bill to primary, secondary schools, worship centres and work place, Omo-Agege said doing so will not be necessary because the Criminal and Penal codes already adequately deals with these categories with sufficient clarity.
He, however, stressed that the bill prescribes expulsion for students who falsely accuse educators of sexual harassment.