Criminal Law

The Position of Law Against Sexual Harassment in Schools and Workplaces

What is a Sexual Offense?

A sexual offense is an anti-social action targeted towards the defilement of another. In other words, it is the harassment of the person of another, especially in a sexual manner. Examples of sexual offenses include rape, fondling, or unwanted touch, especially in a sexual manner. A sexual offender, therefore, is a person that is guilty of a sexual offense.

The Legal Provisions Against Sexual Offenses: Rape

A sexual offense is not only an offense committed against the victim but also the state. It is a crime punishable by law.

In Nigeria, Rape is a sexual offense punishable by several laws. Which includes the Criminal Code Act (applicable in Southern Nigeria), the Penal Code(applicable in Northern Nigeria), the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act applicable in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Under the Criminal Code Act, 1 Rape is defined as when any person has sexual intercourse with a woman or girl without her consent, or incorrectly obtained consent. Consent is incorrectly obtained if it is obtained by force, threat, or intimidation or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, etc. Note that sexual intercourse with under-aged girls or people of unsound mind, with or without their consent also amounts to rape. This is because such persons do not have the requisite capacity to form consent. Under the Criminal code, the punishment for rape is life imprisonment with or without canning2. Under the Penal Code, the punishment for rape is life imprisonment or a lesser period with or without a fine3.

According to the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 20154, Rape is defined as when a person intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person with any other part of his or her body or anything else without consent, or with incorrectly obtained consent. Although, consent is negative when such consent is obtained by the use of substances capable of taking away the will of a person. The minimum punishment for rape is 12 years imprisonment without a fine and the maximum punishment is life imprisonment. However, where an offender is less than 14 years old his maximum punishment is 14 years imprisonment, and where there is group/gang rape, the offenders are jointly liable to a minimum of 20 years imprisonment. Also, the names of sexual offenders are to be kept in a register and made public. Victims of rape are entitled to compensation as the court deems fit.5

The VAPP Act is the most current position of legislation on the topic, although its application is limited to the federal capital territory as earlier mentioned. It is important to note that under the VAPP Act, if a person has carnal knowledge of another even with an object, without his or her consent, such a person is guilty of rape and accordingly is liable.

Societal Challenges Involving Sexual Harassment in Schools and Workplaces

Over the years, Sexual harassment in schools and workplaces has increased exponentially. While some have adequately been brought to light, it would not be inapt to say that majority of them are left unsaid, or unpunished for one reason or the other. Also, the attitude of the police on this issue contributes to the unwillingness to make an official report on several occasions. It has it that (18.1%) of 10,000 girls who have been raped in Nigeria fail to make a report to the police for fear of being ridiculed and loss of confidence in the security outfit.6

In 2021, the incident of three male undergraduates of the Abia State University who conspired and raped two young women was detestable. According to the Vanguard newspaper, the suspects were handed over to the police for proper investigation, while the university is said to have expelled the students. Whether or not the culprits have been justice has been served is unknown.7

Also, in August 2021, a senior lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University was found culpable for sexual misconduct. The committee set up by the university to look into the matter, resolved that he should not be allowed to hold any management position on campus for the next five years, and would also not be promoted for two years. There is nothing presently suggesting his dismissal or even police involvement, which is an aberration of the supremacy and rule of the law.

Rape in Nigerian society is frowned upon, but this is not reflected when institutions abet justice, for whatever reason(s). This helps neither the society, the victim, or even the culprit. The often helpless victim is left to face a mirage of problems, which is more worrisome as rape victims react differently. For instance, when sexual violence occurs in a workplace/ school, absenteeism, reduced performance at work/academics, and quitting the job or dropping out of school is not uncommon. In addition, victims will always feel or rather live in fear of being harassed or threatened again, this, in turn, bears ripple consequences on the victim.

In fact, research has shown that sexual violence that has occurred in the past can also affect current employment; one study found that childhood sexual abuse can often result in difficulties in the workplace in adulthood, leading to poor job performance and high work absenteeism9. Further research has shown that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is likely in 50% to 95% of rape cases10 (In one study, 50% of rape victims lost or were forced to quit their jobs in the year following their rapes because of the severity of their reactions11

Heavy then are the difficulties rape victims (male or female) are left to bear, and with powerful institutions that abet it from materializing into a lawsuit, the victim is often without remedies, even from justice which is supposed to be the last hope of the common man.

Conclusion

From the foregoing, these are examples of sexual harassment in schools and workplaces, which are left unpunished. There are however articles and opinions that condemn the act of sexual harassment in schools and workplaces. The problem, therefore, is not the awareness, or lack of illumination on the topic, it is not even the absence of a law on the subject. It is rather the unwillingness to prosecute such offenses. The unwillingness of the university to adequately punish a sexual offender, down to the police force whose investigations seem unending when it comes to cases involving sexual offenses. These actions are unconstitutional and a breach of the rule of law. The delay of the police force in administering the law is a mockery to the entire core of the law, which is to protect the rights of every member of society. These inadequacies have made victims fail to make a report to the police and have contributed immensely to the low tide of punishment of sexual harassment in the academic and professional environment.

References

Criminal Code Act

Penal Code

Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act

“Childhood Abuse, Household Dysfunction, and … – Xnet.kp.org” <http://xnet.kp.org/permanentejournal/winter04/childhood.html> accessed February 8, 2022

Ellis EM, Atkeson BM, and Calhoun KS, “An Assessment of Long-Term Reaction to Rape.” (1981) 90 Journal of Abnormal Psychology 263

Heise, L., Ellsberg, M., & Gottemoeller, M. (1999). Population reports: Ending violence against women. Issues in World Health, Series L(11). Retrieved from VAWnet: National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women: h

Mojeed Alabi/ ‘exclusive: Nigerian university gives lecturer indicted for sexual misconduct soft landing ’/Premium times newspaper/August 2,2021https://www.premiumtimeng.com/news/headines/481095-exclusive- Nigerian-university-gives- lecturer-indicted-for-sexual-conduct-soft-landing.html.

M. Folayan and others, ‘Rape in Nigeria: a silent epidemic among adolescents with implications for HIV infection’ (Global health action.com, 22 august 2014)<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/aticl/pmc414222>. accessed 23rd. Dec. 2021

“NSVRC Overview – National Sexual Violence Resource Center” &lt;https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_overview_sexual-violence-workplace.pdf&gt; accessed February 8, 2022

Steve Oko/ ‘Five ABSU students face expulsion over rape, cult activities’/ Vanguard newspaper/ (12 June 2021)https://www.vanguadng.com/221/06/five-absu-students-fac-expulsio-over-rape-cult-activitie/amp/

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About Christabel Etuonovbe

Law student. I enjoy and am devoted to researching. It is my true belief that Law controls the Land, therefore it should be just and equitable. With my will, determination, dedication, and research, I hope to be a skilled and excellent lawyer.