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Sexual Harassment Bill: Women groups demand speedy Presidential Assent

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Applaud Senate’s passage

Sexual Harassment Bill: Women groups demand speedy Presidential Assent

By Chioma Obinna, Ebunoluwa Sessou, Victoria Ojeme, and Alex Kola Folorunso

The National Centre for Women Development, NCWD, has commended the Nigerian Senate over the Sexual Harassment Prevention Bill.

The Director-General of the NCWD, Mary Ekpere-Eta, applauded the lawmakers and described the passage of the Bill as a poignant moment in the struggle for women empowerment.

“The passage of the bill to criminalize sexual harassment of female students in tertiary institutions in Nigeria by the Senate stands as a poignant moment in the push for women empowerment.”

READ ALSO: Centre for women development applauds Senate’s passage of sexual harassment bill

“I joined other critical stakeholders at the public hearing on this important law. I am glad that our voices were heard, as we fully supported the bill which will act as a legal framework for protecting female students from unprofessional lecturers who practice and promote the dehumanizing culture of sex-for-grades,” Ekpere-Eta said.

The NCWD Director-General expressed appreciation to the sponsor of the bill, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.

She called on the House of Representatives to pass the bill on time in order for President Muhammadu Buhari to sign it into law in the nearest future.

“Nigerian girls and women face different challenges in their quest for education. We still have places in our country where girls are overlooked when poor families are compelled to pick the children who will be sponsored in school.”

“We have stories of girls dropping out of school because they or other girls they know were raped in footpaths that lead to their schools. We also have girls who are married off at a young age to save money in their homes. It is girls who are sent out to hawk wares to augment their family’s income, despite the fact that they are exposed to danger.”

In Lagos, Mothers And Marginalised Advocacy Centre, MAMA Centre, 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 added.

In a related development, the Media Women Forum has described the Sexual Harassment Bill as a welcome development as it would prevent sexual harassment and exploitation of female students by lecturers in the Nation’s tertiary institutions.

The Bill, which was passed on Tuesday, July 7, prohibits and redresses sexual harassment of students, while also outlawing any form of sexual or romantic relationship in tertiary institutions.

Speaking on the development, coordinator, Media Women Forum, Toro Oladapo noted that, the Bill would be expanded to accommodate other levels of education and other places where women experience sexual harassment, we, however, see it as timely and in line with agitation to ending sexual harassment of girls and women in general.

“We use this opportunity to call on the National Assembly to expedite action on other gender-related bills, especially the Gender and Equal Opportunity and Anti-rape bills.

Women groups’ advocate gender equality for Nigerian women

Meanwhile, a gender advocacy group, Joan Agha Foundation, has called on the Nigerian Federal Government to accord the nation’s women respect and dignity they deserved.

READ ALSO: Women group wants inclusion of secondary, special schools in sexual harassment bill

The pioneer of the foundation, Mrs. Joan Agha dropped the hint during the foundation’s 7th Annual lecture for women entrepreneurs tagged: Empowering the nation through women entrepreneurship”, held at the Oriental Hotel in Lagos, recently.

In her remarks, the convener of the annual lecture, Agha noted that “the future of Nigeria’s economy is in its women’s active involvement in entrepreneurship activities and has become expedient that the Nigerian government embraces women entrepreneurship in order to accelerate the pace of economic growth and development.”

Quoting Koffi Annan, the late former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Agha who charged all Nigerian women to brace up said: “when women thrive all of the social benefits and succeed, generations are given a better start in life.”

The annual lecture; which was well attended by a crop of successful entrepreneurs and professionals of varying degrees and also provided a platform and unique opportunity for women entrepreneurs to learn from successful women entrepreneurs, network with other entrepreneurs to collaborate and partner with each other and to inspire women for greater leadership and managerial impact.

Vanguard

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