It is a universal truism that sexual harassment is as old as the human social system and culture. Little wonder those trading in this merchandise sees it as a profitable venture in many tertiary institutions across the country.
A fact remains, however, that sexual harassment does not have the same interpretation among borders and boundaries of the world, as the prevalence of sexual harassment in the education sector varies from country to country.
Many tertiary institutions in Nigeria seem to have lost their pride of place as the ivory towers of the past and have become arenas for sexual victimisations.
Sexual harassment surfaces on campuses across Nigerian tertiary institutions every now and then, and the frequencies of complaints have increased over the years. It is either the lecturers harassing the students with the sex for marks syndrome rampant on campuses or the students luring lecturers into this immoral act with their body languages and/or provocative dressings.
On Sunday, January 8, 2018, many facebook users were bombarded with the news of a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Funke Dezarn, who called out Francis Fakoya, a former lecturer at OAU over sexual harassment allegation.
Besides, Funke said the lecturer deliberately failed some other medical students who refused to have sex with him.
Similarly, a leaked audio conversation between the lecturer and a female student, Monica Osagie was leaked on the Internet on Monday, April 9, 2018.
In the viral audio, the professor could be heard asking the unidentified lady to have sex with him five times before he would increase her examination score from 33 to a possible pass mark.
After two months of investigation, Akindele was dismissed from OAU on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, and the incidences continue across the education sector in the country.
In the same vein, Babatunde Oseni, the principal assistant registrar at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) was trapped in a sexual harassment scandal following a report filed against him at the security unit of the institution by a female colleague.
The accuser, Tawa Akande, a level six library assistant attached to the maintenance unit of the institution, submitted written complaints and audio clips as evidence.
Though, Oseni denied the allegation, Akande however, insistently alleged that Oseni forcefully kissed and molested her in his office at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Idi-Araba campus of the university, in October 2021.
Without any iota of doubt, similar occurrences abound on campuses with many of them not getting to the media for one reason or the other.
According to a survey by the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) in 2019 conducted across six tertiary institutions in Lagos State most students believed that indecent dressing is responsible for prevalence in rape and sexual abuse on campuses.
API’s survey signed by Bell Ihua, the executive director as sent to ICIR indicated that the survey focused on six institutions including University of Lagos, Lagos State University, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos State Polytechnic, Federal College of Education Akoka, and Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education Ijanikin. A total number of 1,642 respondents, all aged 18 years and older, were interviewed.
The findings revealed that 63 percent of polled students said inappropriate and indecent dressing is a leading factor to rape and sexual harassment on campuses.
Another 36 percent blamed drug and substance abuse for the problem, 12 percent said uncontrolled sexual urges were responsible, while and 5 percent blamed peer pressure.
The study validates the BBC Africa eye documentary on sex for grades, which went undercover to investigate the “open secret” of sexual harassment in universities in Nigeria, Ghana, other West African countries to unearth incidences and challenges of sexual abuse in tertiary institutions.
Tertiary institutions in Nigeria have been at the spotlight in recent times, with increasing allegations of sexual harassments and abuses on campuses. And it seems that the authorities of these tertiary institutions have shown very little efforts at addressing the menace; with anecdotal evidence revealing that some authorities rebuff reports of sexual abuse and harassment in the spirit of collegial camaraderie.
The report further indicates that in some cases, students who reported such cases are victimised by the same academics, their colleagues, and often the institutions.
Up to 61 percent of the students acknowledge the prevalence of sexual abuse on campus and 79 percent identified female students as the main victims. Also student cultists with 33 per cent, fellow male students 29 percent and male lecturers 21 percent were identified as the major perpetrators of these reprehensible acts of rape and sexual abuse, among others.
The rate of indecent dressing noticeable on our campuses calls for concerned. Like a drum with a million faces, indecent dressing has different meaning to different people, yet they all seem to agree that it is an immoral act.
This immoral cancer that is gradually eroding our moral values is the reason some tertiary institutions are now coming out with dressing rules or code for students on campus.
Recently, the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt announced a ban on what it described as ‘indecent dressing’ by students on its campus.
In an internal memo signed by Sydney Enyindah, the registrar of the institution, the university said the ban was with immediate effect.
According to Enyindah, students are no longer permitted to taint their hairs, female students are not allowed to expose their breasts, navel, tattoo their bodies nor wear chains on their legs. While for the male students, they are not permitted to plait their hairs, expose their chest nor wear tattoos just like the female folks.
Besides, students are not allowed to wear slippers, bum shorts, and/or any other indecent clothings to lecture halls.
Similarly, the University of Jos (UNIJOS) had in May 3, 2022 banned indecent dressing on campus and the institution’s management instructed security agencies in the university to arrest any student whose dressing assaulted the sensibilities of the members of the university community.
It is without any iota of doubt to say that these provocative manner of dressing common especially among our female students is giving rise to the high rate of sexual harassment noticeable on campus. That is not to make excuses for the culprits but just looking at the other side to the coin.
Mercy Ubah, a student at the University of Lagos frowns at the rate students are allowed to move about on campus almost naked.
Ubah believes the university authorities owe it as a duty to direct and inculcate morals into these young ones under their tutelage.
“The school management must as a duty rise to curb the rate of indecency in dressing codes among students, especially the female ones on campus. I think it is distracting seeing most especially ladies almost half naked walking around the school premises,” she said.
For Michael Ndukwe, a student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, there is actually no reason why tertiary institutions should toy with indecent dressing which to him a trigger to sexual harassment both with the lecturers’ to students’ incidences, and/or students to students occurrences on campus.
“Female students who dress to expose their breasts, navels, buttocks, etc; and the male counterparts who dress to expose their chests, muscles, and pants, they are just sitting on gun powder that could explode any moment the fire comes near it, and that fire is the socio-system environment to perpetrate the act,” he said.
For Esther Oshionebo, a senior lecturer department of Management Education at the University of Lagos, anywhere there is human community; there must always be issues to talk about.
Oshionebo pointed out that sexual harassment even of the male students though not common is taking place on campus, just that it is not a common norm to see women wooing men.
“Women ordinarily do not go to men, but culture-wise, women want to be chased even when they are interested, they will still pretend otherwise. That is not to say the male students are not being harassed, but that the incidences are very rare”, she said.
In fact, a proper analysis of sexual harassment on campuses has proven that even the lecturers are being harassed, though this may sound strange but it is a fact.
“Each group, the students and lecturers tries to exploit the others group per time by cashing on the weaknesses of their victims. It is an all encompassing thing and its pendulum does not just fall on one side alone”, she asserted.
Biodun Ogunyemi, the former ASUU president agreed with Oshionebo by insisting that male students are also being sexually harassed. He disclosed this during one of his outings where he spoke on the “Sexual harassment of students in tertiary educational institution prohibition bill” sponsored by Ovie Omo-Agege, the deputy senate president.
“There is no point passing the sexual harassment bill. There are existing laws. In my 32 years in the university, I’ve been sexually harassed by female students. Universities are already handling cases of sexual harassment”, he said.