By Ganiu Bamgbose(PhD)
The preponderance of sexual harassment in higher institutions in Nigeria and the alleged cases of negotiation of marks have necessitated legislative efforts at returning sanity to the Nigerian higher institutions.
Nigeria’s Senate has passed a bill aimed at combating sexual harassments as part of a broader move to uphold ethics in the country’s higher institutions. Frankly, this law is highly essential as it will certainly curb or, at least, reduce the dastardly act of sexual abuse among academics.
Looking at the flyer of the 16th Annual Conference of the Fulbright Programme this morning of 4th February 2021, I saw that the theme of the conference is ADDRESSING SOCIETAL MENACE AND SOCIAL DISORDERS: SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE IN TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS. This is accompanied by varied sub-themes all geared towards the discourse of sexual abuse in higher institutions.
This, I consider another strong voice towards addressing an awful and shameful situation in Nigeria. However, a question struck my mind after reading the flyer: isn’t there another perspective to this discourse?
Let me make clear that my intent is not in any way to discourage the legal, academic and other moves towards addressing the menace of sexual harassment which I too condemn vehemently. But it is also of utmost relevance to interrogate the other side of this same coin which is the activities of many students too, which frankly could be unethical.
Are we mindful of the plight of a lecturer who is approached by female students for marks and who declines? What about the possibility of malicious fabrications against a disciplined lecturer who would not compromise? Who should he take his story to? Who wishes to listen to him genuinely?
Many female students in higher institutions are adults with sexual cravings and emotional attachments too. How again do we explain their own crushes, infatuations and manipulative advances towards their male lecturers? Or, is being a lecturer tantamount to being a divinity?
One step ahead, what specific law is protecting secretaries who are sexually harassed by their bosses in private organisations and other parastatal companies? Who monitors politicians, business tycoons and even religious leaders who also leverage their influences to get involved in sexual escapades with all kinds of ladies/women? What does the law say about a female lecturer befriending a male student? Nothing, I guess.
Shouldn’t justice for one be justice for all? An attempt to curb a menace should take a broader outlook and not only specifically call out a class of people.
I will round off this piece by reaffirming that the indiscipline of some male academics should not only be left to posterity. Legal actions as have been put in place are essential in ensuring a sane academic clime. Matter-of-factly, measures are needed to save the helplessness of young ladies and punish acts of indecency among male academics. However, the other side(s) of this same coin should not be overlooked.
Dr. Bamgbose is of the Department of English, Lagos State University, LASU.