By Chioma Obinna
Mothers And Marginalised Advocacy Centre, MAMA Centre, on Wednesday, commended the passage of Sexual Harassment Bill by the Nigerian Senate, calling for prompt Presidential assent to transmit the Bill into law.
The Centre noted that the passage of the Bill shows the sincere commitment by the upper chamber to address the plights of Nigerian women and girls, who constitute the major victims of the growing trend of sexual harassment, abuse, and molestation in the country.
In a statement signed by the Executive Director, MAMA Centre , Barr. Ola Onyegbula stated that if signed into law and fully implemented, the new legislation would safeguard women and girls from years of traumatic and injury-inflicted moments allowed to drag or go unpunished in most cases due to inadequate policy and judicial interpretation.
“We are also happy that the new legislation sanctions unprecedented sexual harassment in educational institutions by making it an offense and removing mutual consent as a defense in the prosecution of sexual harassment while making the formal walls conducive centres of learning.
“We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of national urgency, assent to the Bill.”
Onyegbula further encouraged the State Houses of Assembly to follow suit in rapid adoption and full implementation of the Bill, as a demonstration of sincere commitment by the State Governments to secure the health, emotional and physical well-being of women and girls in the country.
“We further call for the strengthened capacity of law enforcement agencies to understand provisions of the new legislation to efficiently interpret and apprehend suspected offenders.
“We also call for prompt passage into law, the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill, at the Federal and State levels to domesticate the CEDAW and AU Women’s Protocol; adoption and full implementation of the Violence against Women Bill at all state levels.”
She recalled that MAMA Centre had through various programmes and activities as well as widely-published media motions, joined other well-meaning organisations and individuals to condemn sexual harassment in all forms, with strong demand for appropriate policy response in institutionalizing proactive measures and enabling reporting system to support the judicial interpretation of processes and laws to adequately sanction offenders in mitigating recurrence incidence at all levels.