The Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki, on Thursday urged rape victims to speak out, saying that silence was no longer an option if they wanted to get justice.
Saraki gave the advice at a webinar on ‘Enforcing Policies and Legal Instruments Against Sexual Harassment and Exploitation in the Maritime Industry’.
The webinar was organised by Women in Maritime Journalism (WIMAJ) to commemorate the 2020 Day of the Seafarers.
Saraki, who was represented by Mrs Asmau Adaji, Deputy Director, Marine Pollution, Federal Ministry of Transportation, said that the fight against female sexual harassment required effective collaboration of all stakeholders.
She said that such stakeholders include government, shipping companies, the media, civil society and the victim who must be courageous to speak up.
The minister said that organisations and individuals must shun the culture of silence.
“Human dignity must be respected at all times and places, there should be increased protection of women’s rights under the law.
“The Federal Ministry of Transportation, with the assistance of maritime agencies, is committed to formulating policies in line with our subsisting law to address this sad phenomenon which erodes human dignity and inhibits the womenfolk from pursuing careers and exploring their potential in the maritime sector,” she said.
Saraki said experience had shown that female sexual harassment in the maritime industry remained largely unreported due to fear of stigmatisation and victimisation.
According to her, shipping companies have a role to play in addressing this inhuman practice by publicising the reporting procedures and ensuring the victim’s confidentiality.
She said that they must show the commitment to deal with such incidents so as to instil confidence in the victims and deter intending offenders.
Also, Mrs Margret Orakwusi, Chairperson, Shipowners Forum, Nigeria, said that there was need to look inward on how women raise the men in their household.
According to her, the preferential treatment given to men, raising men to see the female body as an entitlement, is not good at all.
She said there was the need to raise men that would appreciate the fundamental rights of a woman.
Orakwusi said there was need to encourage people to speak out, as the culture of silence was motivating some men to continue with the bad act.
In her contribution, Ms Koni Duniya, ex-seafarer and Voyage Management Advisor, Nigerian LNG, attributed silence by rape victims to the fear of victimisation, shame or isolation on board.
She said some could even be afraid of being killed and thrown overboard.
Duniya said that cases were also unreported because in terms of evidence collecting, it was almost a lost battle.
She said it was okay to have laws in place, but it was better that the act should not happen at all, advocating zero tolerance to sexual harassment.
Mrs Jean Chiazo-Anishere, a lawyer and President, African Women in Maritime (WIMAfrica) said that to curb the menace, there was need to report to bring the perpetrators to book, hence the need to speak out.
She urged all women seafarers to ensure that the protection of their bodies and personalities were accommodated in the policy of the companies they wanted to work with.