From unwanted sexual advances to rape, many girls and women have had to endure sexual violence and harassment also referred to as Gender Based Violence (GBV). ENE OSANG writes that female undergraduates recently joined the on-going 16 days activism programme by the United Nations (UN) Women in Abuja.
The magnitude of sexual harassment suffered by girls, especially those in the universities, has become overwhelming in recent times. A development believed to demonstrate the culture of discrimination against women and girls that permeates the Nigerian society.
Gender experts maintain that for Gender Based Violence (GBV) to be eliminated, everyone has a critical role to play and must participate to create the change.
Speaking at the symposium/rally organised by female wing of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) with support from the UN Women, the Director for Gender, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Miss Blessing Onwumere, decried the continued harassment of female students by lecturers in most universities in the country.
She called for the speedy passage of the proposed Bill for an Act To Make Provision for the Prohibition of Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions and for Matters Connected Therewith, 2016.
“The female wing of the National Association of Nigerian Students today advocates for the Passage of the Sexual Harassment bill into law.
“Most lecturers in universities in Nigeria harass female students as they feel they have the keys to your graduation and can harass any girl they want and go unpunished.
“We must speak out against harassment and violence in our workplaces, in our institutions, in our social arenas and through the media, popular culture and mass communication channels,” she said.
According to the student leader, “These students here today are drawn from different Nigerian universities and we are united to speak out against sexual harassment in tertiary institutions, which is often perpetuated by lecturers, school administrators, other school employees, and fellow students.
“These acts continue to be a menace because our institutions do not have clear policies to deal with the issue and that they must take more concrete steps to deal with the problem, including providing care and support to victims and their families.”
She expressed the hope that passing the bill into law was the best way to stem harassment of female students, adding that new cases of sexual harassment keep emerging daily and students find it difficult to get justice.
The programme, which featured male and female students from Nigerian universities disseminating messages on GBV and sensitising the public, raises awareness on issues of violence against women and girls.
The students as part of the campaign carried placards with different inscriptions including: “Let us end #sexualharassment in Nigerian universities and in public spaces; #orangetheworld among others.
Also speaking at the symposium representative of the NAPTIP, Dr. Mrs. Eunice Anuforum, stressed that a lot has to be done in homes in a bid to curb the VAW.
She said children must be taught morals that would make them responsible adults in the future., noting: “We have to teach our wards basic morals to avoid cases of gender based violence in our society.”
In his remarks, the Deputy Country Representative for UNFPA Nigeria, Eugene Kongnyuy, pointed out that the impact of GBV can be psychological, mental and emotional to all victims.