By Chinenye Festus:-
The Vice President Of Nigeria Prof Yemi Osibanjo on Wednesday at a webinar on Anti-Sexual Harassment themed “Finding Safe Spaces for Female Students in Nigerian Universities”, organized by the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile – Ife in Osun State, stated that victims of sexual abuse should not be blamed for their harassment.
He noted that although they fall prey to this atrocious act, they are not the architects of their fate especially by their attitude, dressing or willingness to be in a compromising place with their violators.
“The victim must always be seen as the victim and not to be blamed,” the Vice President said.
“There cannot be an excuse, especially given the power configuration between students and lecturers, that the victim could have somehow invited the abuse upon themselves. I think it is an important consideration to be made and we must not allow that notion to persist.”
“To ensure that both faculty and students are sufficiently clear about the issues and rules, there is a need for a code of conduct or ethical guidelines based on best practices inappropriate student/lecturer interactions,” he said.
“It is important that these are clearly defined in ethical guidelines that are contained in some documents that people can refer to and see. It is important both for the lecturer and the student that there is some reference to some code of conduct.”
Speaking further on ways of resolving issues around sexual harassment in Nigerian universities, the vice president said the search for answers to creating safe spaces for female students in universities must begin from the question of why such a rampant crime is so under-reported.
“There are obviously many cases of people who share their anecdotal experiences without necessarily reporting to the authorities. I think the answer is clearly that this low reportability is on account of the fact that many victims do not feel confident that they will get redress, or that they will be treated fairly, or that they will not be visited with the same fearful consequences that were the subject of the demand in the first place.
“The fear that they will neither get a sympathetic nor understanding hearing, let alone justice, and that they will end up suffering the same consequences the predator had threatened would occur if they did not submit to their demands. Then there is, of course, the shame and stigma that could attend speaking up.”
“I think that in ensuring that we create safe spaces, we must do at least the basics, which is providing the support and resources they need to report abusers. Every institution must make it easy for victims or potential victims to report perpetrators to trusted formal structures or secure channels created specifically for the purpose of resolving such cases,” he added.
Osinbajo also recommended that sexual offenders should be made to face the strictest possible punishment so that it will issue a sure warning to others intending to commit the crime.
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