…As Senate passes Sexual Harassment
Bill to send randy lecturers to 14-year jail-term
By Henry Umoru & Tordue Salem
The House of Representatives yesterday called on the Federal Government to set up a special court to speedily prosecute cases of rape in the country.
The call came on a day the Senate passed a bill seeking to stop sexual abuse of female students in the nation’s tertiary institutions.
The motion in the House of Reps, entitled “A Call on the Federal Government to immediately set up sex offender violation Special Court or make speedy trial of perpetrators of the offence”, was sponsored by Unyime Idem(PDP-Akwa-Ibom).
While presenting his motion under the matter of urgent public importance, the lawmaker recalled that a few months ago, the country was ravaged by the deadly coronavirus, adding that while in the midst of waging the war, the country was being confronted with another pandemic -the pandemic of rape and gender violation.
He noted that the entire country suddenly started witnessing an unprecedented increase in numbers of rape and violation cases in the country.
“I confirmed that the Nigeria Police Force has reported a surging record between January 2020 and May 2020 of over 717 rape cases formally reported. That is an average of 143 cases per month and around five cases per day.
‘’These are only reported cases, your guess of the unreported ones is as good as mine. Definitely, there are also thousands of unreported cases. Rape is a gross violation of human rights – right to dignity, right to life, right to sexuality.
“The public outrage on account of rape and other violent crimes against women and girls leading to the death of some of the victims had reached a horrifying and scary proportion in recent times. This pervasive crime in the society is alarming.
“The spate of reported societal menace of rape cases in the country if not addressed, the society is heading for doom and the disturbing cases should be condemned by all and sundry and a look in the direction of stiffer legislation that would help reduce rape.
‘’The victims of rape should not be stigmatized by the society but rather they should be encouraged to speak up when they fall victims of this act.’’
He urged the Federal Government to, “without delay, launch a national campaign against rape and gender-based violence, the campaign which should include advocacy, public sensitization and social mobilization.
‘’Also, the campaign is necessary not only to raise the level of awareness about rape and gender-based violence but to ensure that Nigerians own the fight against the abhorrent and repulsive criminal acts.’’
He condemned in strong terms “the act of rape and gender-based violence, describing them as barbaric, inhuman and despotic and sustain the fight against the menace, as well as ensure offenders who indulge in such heinous crimes be served stricter sanctions by institutions of the law and be dealt with accordingly.”
He said “that there is need for accelerated hearing and prosecution for Rape, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), cases in court.
‘’The acceleration of such cases will mean faster conclusion and convictions of those alleged to have committed these offences. And the Country will be safer because with the implementation and enforcement, culprits in correctional facilities and those still harbouring the intention to commit the atrocities will be discouraged.”
He advised that “if these cases are concluded within months or even weeks with strong evidence to back up the conviction, it will have a massive effect on those who are nursing the intention to commit similar crimes.
‘’They will fear and understand that the risks involved far outweigh the crime. If the system works fast and well, our society will not be the same again.”
Adopting the motion, the House condemned in strong terms the act of rape and all other gender-based violence over the past months within the country.
The House urged the Federal Government, through its relevant regulatory agencies, to set up accelerated court hearing mechanism and prosecution for rape, sexual and gender-based violence, SGBV, cases in court.
It also urged the Federal Government to immediately set up special courts for the offence of rape, sexual and gender-based violence, and mandated the House Committee on Women Affairs and Social Development, Federal Judiciary and Human Rights to liaise with relevant government’s regulatory agencies and ensure compliance with the appropriate resolution of the house.
The committee is to report back to the House in two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday passed a bill seeking to stop sexual abuse of female students in the nation’s tertiary institutions.
With the bill waiting to be signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, a jail term of 14 years, with a minimum of five years without an option of fine, awaits any randy lecturer.
The bill, which was read the third time and passed, was sequel to the consideration of the report of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters presented by the Chairman, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, All Progressives Congress, APC, Ekiti Central.
The bill, christened: 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,’’ was sponsored by Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo -Agege, APC, Delta Central, co-sponsored by 105 other senators.
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said the passage of the sexual harassment bill by the lawmakers would ensure the safety of students of tertiary institutions in the country.
Lawan, who spoke after the Senate passed of the bill, said: “This is a very important and landmark legislation that this Ninth Senate has passed. We have to protect our daughters from predators.
“In the process, we could see clearly that we wanted fair means of determining what offence somebody is accused of, so it is a balanced legislation.
“We want our tertiary institutions to be a very safe environment for everyone, and this is a legislation that will ensure that wish.”
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.
It also covers 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.
Earlier in his presentation of the report, Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Bamidele, said the piece of legislation “attracted unprecedented support from not only 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.”