The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) have linked increasing cases of sexual exploitation, especially in tertiary institutions to ignorance on the part of victims.
They also concluded that the culture of silence among victims, including the inability to channel their complaints to the relevant agency charged to deal with the crime, embolden perpetrators to continue committing the crime.
They reached these conclusions at a stakeholders consultative forum on sexual exploitation in tertiary institutions in Nigeria organised by CISLAC in conjunction with the German Agency for International Cooperation in Abuja on Tuesday.
ICPC Chairman, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, said many Nigerians are ignorant of the fact that the agency is the Constitutional body mandated to investigate such crimes because it falls under corruption offence.
Represented by his Special Adviser on legal matters, Olubunmi Olugasa, the ICPC boss told students invited from tertiary institutions in the FCT that the first port of call when such offences occur is to report to the agency for onward investigation.
“Ignorance they say is bliss but in tackling the challenge before us today, ignorance increases the rate of the crime. The Commission is therefore trying to get the message out there, explain what exactly amounts to Sexual Exploitation and tell people that we are ready to tackle it as empowered under our mandate.
“We hope our existing partnerships will continue to be mutually beneficial so that as we receive the reports, we can investigate and prosecute where necessary while partnering with organisations with strong machinery for psycho-social, health and other support.”
Earlier in his opening address, Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani called on the National Assembly to pass the Sexual Harassment in ‘Tertiary Education Institution Bill’ before it as a way of tackling the menace.
According to him, Nigerian universities are considered extremely abusive towards young women seeking education.
This, according to him does not negate the fact that there are also young men who experience such abuses or harassment.
He observed that the stereotype by society that females are the only victims of sextortion should be reconsidered “because there are situations even though not so prevalent where males have been victims.”
“Also, there are situations where the female students are the ones who approach the lecturers and offer sex in exchange for favours,” he added.
“In 2016, the Nigerian Senate introduced the “Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution Bill” as a strategy to criminalize various acts of sextortion in Nigerian tertiary institutions but it is yet to be passed into law.
“There are, however, other laws that address the issue of sexual harassment and bribery. Some of such laws include the VAPP Act, Criminal Code, Penal Code and ICPC Act. Many Nigerians are not aware of their fundamental rights and as such, cannot tell when it is violated or know where to go seeking redress.
“The fear of stigmatization by the society which is very common and the fact that perpetrators are mostly high profile individuals who are either lecturers or non-academic staff who have some level of influence or power within the institution and the society makes a lot of victims reluctant to report or speak out. There is distrust for the system, they are unsure if they will get justice or the necessary redress,” CISLAC added.