•Says non-academic staff fuel sexual harassment, rape
•Declares students ahead of lecturers in rape saga, others
Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
The findings from an investigation into the increase in cases of sexual harassment in institutions of higher learning in Nigeria has revealed that male students are ahead of their lecturers in sexual harassment and rape of their female counterparts.
The research report and advocacy strategy for higher institutions on ending sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) was conducted by Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.
The report, however, stated that there was also grossly under-reported sex for promotion and other sexual and gender-based violence among staff.
“The major reason for not reporting is a lack of knowledge of where to go and who to tell, the expectation of not being believed, followed by fear of negative consequences.
“In some quoted instances, reporting lead to further injustice for the victim. Some institutions have set up guidance and counselling units and instituted patrols to monitor classes and offices after hours, however, there is a lack of trust because when perpetrators are caught, the systems do not seem to lead to sanctions for them or justice for their victims,” it stated.
According to the report, “some universities have set up legal services units and mentoring schemes for students which is an encouraging trend.”
The report showed that non-academic staff of higher education institutions were neck-deep in sexual harassment and rape in the campuses.
The report observed that, “There are different manifestations and prevalence of SGBV among different categories of people in the university community. All forms of SGBV are present on campus and with unacceptable frequency.
“The most prevalent forms are sexual harassment followed by rape. The main perpetrators of SGBV are predominantly students and academic staff, although it is also common for non-academic staff to sexually harass students during the admissions process and when securing accommodation. There is also grossly under-reported sex for promotion and other SGBV amongst staff.”
While stating that the factors responsible for the rise of sexual harassment and gender-based violence were a combination of issues, the report noted that, “SGBV is misunderstood, even among women within the university community who are its greatest victims.
“For example, the notion that dressing in a certain way translates to students offering sexual favours re-enforces victim blame and seems to be promoted by women. Several universities have bought into this misconception and consider a dress code as an appropriate policy measure to prevent SGBV.
“There is a lack of awareness about sources of protection and redress on campus, the power dynamics and institutional process mean that power over the progress of students and staff resides in too many hands, and the culture of silence means that there is impunity when abuses or violence occurs.
“Also, there are still respondents who have normalised the expectation of violence to the point where they believe there is no need to report incidents when they occur.
“An increasing number of institutions have policies to combat SGBV. Nevertheless, sexual harassment is rampant and victims do not report it. The analysis suggests that reporting mechanisms are disparate and unstructured and students, in particular, faulted the reporting systems because they are not considered transparent or confidential.
“The major reason for not reporting is a lack of knowledge of where to go and who to tell, the expectation of not being believed, followed by fear of negative consequences. In some quoted instances, reporting did indeed lead to further injustice for the victim.
“Some institutions have set up guidance and counselling units and instituted patrols to monitor classes and offices after hours, however, there is a lack of trust because when perpetrators are caught, the systems do not seem to lead to sanctions for them or justice for their victims.
“Some universities have set up legal services units and mentoring schemes for students which is an encouraging trend.”
It pointed out that, “as proponents and custodians of academic excellence and the main engines for human capital development to meet the workforce and economic demands of the nation, universities should not be one of the locations where SGBV is a highly recurring yet, under-reported crime.
“SGBV has been proven to negatively impact the participation in education, retention of students, performance in academic studies, graduation from higher tertiary institutions, and the reputation of institutions.
“These are all diametrically opposed to the purpose and governing principles of institutes of higher learning. In addition to the professional toll or deviation from the planned course of their life, SGBV manifests in the form of physical and mental trauma for the individuals and carries long-term social consequences for the victims, mostly students, as they carry the badge of stigmatisation by friends and family members.
“Therefore, an advocacy strategy has been developed that takes these findings into consideration as well as best practices from the focus group discussions and the recommendations from the survey respondents.”
The Executive Director of WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, also shed more light on the report in an interview with journalists.
She said, “The report that came out suggests that there should be more institutional strength within the university and other higher institutions in Nigeria on sexual harassment.
“The report talks about the infrastructure that we need to put in place, for example, CCTV, so that the activities of both lecturers and students can be monitored.
“The report also shows that sexual harassment is not only common with lecturers but also with students, meaning that there is a need for more awareness and training and that people should also understand the consequences of sexual harassment in educational institutions.
“The report also shows the effects of sexual harassment on students, some of them have to lose their studentship, some of them face trauma, psychological and emotional stress and unfortunately. The school environment has not been responsive to be able to address some of those issues.
“The report is reflecting data from 20 schools with 7,178 students that participated in the research. It captures particularly those who are working in and around schools and about 300 workers, either lecturers, people who sell food in the school environment, or non-academic staff who participated in the research. This actually legitimizes the research as being participatory and being evidence-based.”