The recent BBC documentary detailing a slew of sex-for-grades stories
emanating from universities in Nigeria and Ghana has brought to the
fore, once again, the lingering and pervasive sexual harassment issue
in our society.

It understandably ignited a frenzied condemnation across the country
prompting the senate to introduce a bill that aims to prevent the
sexual harassment of university students.

If the bill were to become law, it would be illegal for lecturers to
make any sexual advances towards students. Under the proposed law
also, teaching staff could face up to 14 years in jail for having
sexual relationships with their students. While this is commendable,
it is not enough to stop this dastard act.

The footage from the documentary was indeed chilling and blood
boiling, to say the least. It was infuriating and disgusting to see
university professors sexually harassing and blackmailing their
students. It was extremely hard to watch but quite necessary in order
to confront this beastly and absolutely enraging reality that young
and desperate students are facing in our Universities.

At one point in the footage, you could hear a student saying: "This
thing has been going on for years. And every single year, every single
department, every single student, there’s always a story!"

If this isn’t absolutely disturbing, nothing else will be.

Sexual harassment is a type of harassment technique that relates to a
sexual nature and the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in
exchange for sexual favors. Sexual harassment includes a range of
actions from mild transgressions to sexual abuse or assault.

Harassment can occur in many different social settings such as the
workplace, in the home, schools, religious institutions, etc. Most
important, however, harassers or victims may be of any gender.

While the information that this documentary reveals is upsetting and
shocking, to be frank, the BBC Africa Eye Sex For Grades documentary
is not an uncommon practice across every stratum of our society. One
would be naïve or even mendacious to say that they were not aware that
it happens, especially when the abuse breaches the relationship of a
Fiduciary nature.

Many of us are aware, have heard or suspected that it happens on a
regular basis in these relationships, particularly when the victim is
looking for some favor or outcome from the abuser. When the victim is
desperate for the person in the position of the abuser to impart them
with some sort of result.

It really is a sad situation, but even sadder that few people or
organizations, including human rights groups, have provided consistent
counseling and safe havens for victims and clamoring for stringent
punitive measures against the perpetrators. Due to the lack of
stringent measures, the practice of sexual abuse and harassment has
continued abated. This is so, particularly in educational institutions
across the country.

From the BBC documentary, the ordeal that some students face in the
hands of some constipated, salacious, depraved and irresponsible
lecturers that have a misplaced and engorged appetite for carnal
favors is an almost daily story. It just is not acceptable. And it
should not be allowed.

Eerily, the documentary is the first time a well documented visual
evidence will be presented to the public domain of perverted lecturers
preying on, mainly, helpless female students. One probably has social
media and technology to thank for this feat.

There, indeed, have been a couple of amateur videos of lecturers
subjecting their students to this inhuman treatment, but none has been
able to garner such rage, outpour, and disgust compared to this
sting-like operation’s visual documentary that has humanized the
predators, bringing them close to home.

While the male gender can also be victims of assault, the truth is
that the vast majority of sexual assault victims in our society are
female. In addressing this matter, one has to wonder why the practice
of rape, sexual assault, and harassment has continued, unabated,
across every stratum in our society.

Perhaps, despite the achievements of women in our society, there is
still an entitled mentality in the form of the sense of superiority
that the average Nigerian male acquires while growing up. More often
than not, parents bring up their male kids in a way that they begin to
believe they are the superior gender to their sisters and any other
girl around them.

The boys who grow up and emerge as brutes invariably acquire a false
sense of importance and a compelling inability to delay gratification.
However, this is a discussion for another day.

Society itself needs to deliberately give proper orientation to every
child and inculcate the equality of the sexes in every child,
irrespective of gender. There is also the need to break the culture of
silence borne out of stigmatization.

The more people speak out about this evil and call out its
perpetrators, the more we will liberate Nigeria’s youth from bondage
and assure the country’s future. This will also activate the legal and
judicial system, which is not just largely untested but also is long
overdue for an overhaul.

Prevention of sexual assault will remain a mirage until we put in
place institutional frameworks to deal comprehensively with actual
cases of sexual assault. This approach should involve functional,
skilled, and synchronized services and also include the criminal
justice system, the police, social services, and sexual assault
services.

Encouraging victims and survivors of sexual assault to break their
silence by making available such services, which should be
community-based, and the successful prosecution of perpetrators, will
serve as a deterrent and hopefully prevent the next person from
falling victim.

Public enlightenment can also be a critical tool in changing behavior,
attitude, beliefs and the value system of people. Therefore there
should be intense public enlightenment and education at schools,
religious institutions, and social gatherings demystifying the myths
about sexual assault.

Very important, the media has a vital role to play, because it is in
the background unconsciously influencing people’s thoughts with its
constant subliminal messages. The false assumptions about sexual
assault that are seen as being true can be dispelled through the
media, in schools, in our religious institutions, and in our social
gatherings. Even new media, with forwards on WhatsApp and other tools
and play a vital role.

As for the lecturer involved and caught in the sex for grades
documentary, suspending him just isn’t enough. Severe punitive action
has to be taken in light of the evidence against him in the public
domain. The authorities need to ensure that this particular predator
is made an example of in order to serve as a deterrent to future
would-be predators.

Nigerian lawmakers need to sit up and tighten the sexual assault and
rape laws. There have been talks about this for several years but they
need to take, debate and amend it seriously. The law enforcers must
take action against anyone reported to have committed rape and sexual
assault and instituted a suit against them in court.

Teachers and religious and community leaders need to start the
conversation earnestly. The government must take action now. We cannot
turn our eyes away anymore. We cannot pretend that it is not
happening.

Sexual assault and rape are happening in our society every single day.
It is time for every moral, responsible and peace-loving person to
speak up and speak out on behalf of those who need us to stand with
them and not silence them.

The culture of silence should be silenced… for it has endured long enough.

Hannatu Musawa

I invite you to follow me on Twitter:

@hanneymusawa

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