Sexual Harassment: CISLAC sensitizes students of tertiary institutions

By Chimezie Godfrey

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC) has on Monday commenced sensitization on sexual exploitation for students of tertiary institutions across the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

CISLAC trained the students on how to use the TIMBY APP, an electronic channel it created through which survivors of sexual harassment can pursue psychological support and seek redress.

The Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, represented by the Manager Communications & Organizational Development, Emir Suljovic, in his welcome remark said the sensitization for tertiary institutions in Abuja was one of the activities outlined towards the implementation of the Sextortion Project that CISLAC is currently implementing with support from the German Agency for International Cooperation.

He said,”We have brought all you students of various tertiary institutions across Abuja to enlighten and educate you on the issue of sexual exploitation (Sextortion) in tertiary institutions in Nigeria from the anti- corruption perspective, encourage you to speak out, seek redress and psychological support.

“Transparency International defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for personal gain. It can be defined as grand, petty and political depending on the peculiarity of each case.

“Not all forms of corruption include or involve money and that is where sexual exploitation falls.

“According to a UNODC (2020) survey1 41 % of both men and women think that ‘body currency’ – the exchange of sex in return for preferential treatment – happens very frequently in Nigeria. Another 30 % are convinced that it happens frequently. Most victims and survivors of sextortion (termed “body currency” in Nigeria) are unable or reluctant to speak out.”

Rafsanjani noted that the Nigerian universities in particular are considered as extremely abusive towards young women seeking education; this does not negate the fact that there are also young men who experience such abuses/ harassment.

He pointed out that the stereotype by society that females are the only victims of sextortion are should be reconsidered because there are situations leven 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 favors.

He recalled that 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.

He however noted that there are other laws that address the issue of sexual harassment and bribery, which include the VAPP Act, Criminal Code, Penal Code and ICPC Act.

The Human Rights Activist decried the fact that 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.

“Also, the fear of stigmatization by society which is very common and the fact that perpetuators 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.

“While the seriousness of the foregoing continues to stare and confront us as a people, for reasons which have been linked to a connivance of certain surmountable factors, there is a need for students in tertiary institutions in Nigeria to understand their rights and also speak out while school management, anti corruption agencies and other relevant institutions of government commit to accountability, transparency and integrity towards putting and exhibit mechanisms in place for addressing the issue which includes criminalizing sextortion and providing sanctions for perpetrators.

“On our part, CISLAC has created a trusted electronic channel which is called TIMBY App, as a physical complaint and reporting channels for people to pursue psychological support and redress.

“This is in line with one of Nigeria’s THE commitment under Open Governance Partnership (OGP), to support victims and witnesses of corrupt practices.

“I urge you all to listen attentively to the presentations that will be made here today, commit to shun all forms of sexual harassment and exploitation and take advantage of the TIMBY App and other channels available for you to speak out and pursue the support you need.

“I must at this point recognize the immense support of the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) for providing the much needed resources under the framework of the project as commissioned by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany.

“Our appreciation also goes to our partners ICPC, National Human Rights Commission, NOA, FIDA, LEDAP and the media present to lend their support here today,” he said.

Ufuoma Phoebe Magadagwa, a student of Base University, said that they have learnt a lot especially about TIMBY APP that can enable survivors access psychological assistance, and seek redress.

She therefore promised that they will go and spread the message to across institutions and the society.

“The lecture has been really enlightening, the exposition provide for everybody who in attendance here is wonderful, although it seem like is something that everybody know about, we should know about it. Is a pity is something that so many people underrated, especially the fun stereotype that is more prominent in public universities.

“Everyone here the administrators, staff, is letting us know this is a problem that need to be solved, and I mean with the innovation particularly the APP that has been introduced is very important. We will go on to spread this to members of the school, with administrators and everyone to know that sextortion is a problem that need to be remedied, that needs to be reduced to the least in our schools and other parts of the society,” She said.

Also, Omobo Joy a student of Bingham University, Abuja, confessed that the traing has taught her a lot, especially in being able identify behaviours that leads to sexual exploitation.

Moreso, she said that the TIMBY APP will encourage students to report cases of sexual exploitation without the fear of being exposed, among other benefits.

“So far in the training I learnt about sexual exploitation, and as a lady taking back some of the signs to know when a lecturer or somebody else in a higher position wants to
exploit you sexually. I understand from the gesture that they give, the comment and how they behave in the class and everything, I will be able to watch and say that ok this person wants to influence or bring up exploitation towards me.

“And it will also help me to advise my colleagues who are probably survivors, and also know the medium to report if at all there is a case.

“With the TIMBY APP, since it is anonymous people will actually be able to come out and report knowing that their information is secure and that nobody will actually know that is coming from them, and measures will be taken to stop that lecturer that actually engaged in it,” she said.