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The culture of sexual harassment in Nigerian universities

The year 2017 has been a pivotal year for women who struggle with pent up emotions about common experiences shared with one another. The common experience – sexual harassment or sexual assault, whether its hauling, awkward stares, pestering, forced or unconsented sex, women have taken to social media to release these feelings.    

Recent social media trends such as #MeToo has revealed some disturbing details of the commonness of sexual harassment and assault of which thousands of men and women around the world partook in. This was a shining moment in social media as it not only revealed the prevalence of sexual assault, but it also showed its silent culture.   

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein drama that has resulted in over 30 women coming out to publicly accuse this powerful man of rape, this brought questions of how issues like this are treated in Nigerian Universities.  To address this, we must investigate what contributes to relay its undermining nature. 

Nigerian author El Nathan John sparked a twitter conversation drawing similarities between the Harvey Weinstein case and the Nigerian universities to his 14,000 followers. Replies revealed that though there is little or no scientific evidence, sexual harassment does exist in our universities. 

For decades, female students in popular Nigerian universities have summoned up the courage to report randy male faculty members of sexual harassment, however such reports have fallen on deaf ears. Like the Harvey Weinstein case, this age old phenomenon has undermined the validity of the Nigerian university degree. A tolling number of women are either dropping out of university or they are suffering possible consequences of succumbing to male faculty sexual advances.  

To begin with, there are numerous questions of whether or not women are giving themselves off as bait by being single or better yet, attractive or friendly. 

Most victims are blamed for “putting themselves out here” to be hunted for sport in the male professor’s quest to assert his power and take “what belongs to them”. Which begs the question of whether women are also contributing to silencing one another. 

In the past male counterparts have over emphasized the fact that women are their worst enemies and in this case there is some truth to that. Profiling the victim for looking a certain way, it then shows that it is a sin to look attractive when you do not intend to. As a result, the victim is not allowed to report harassment cases as it was brought on them.  However, women who do look unattractive who have been harassed should be proud that she has been paid attention to.  It’s the age-old idea, which propagates that regardless of how you look, men do have the right to your body to establish your worth. 

Alternatively, sexual harassment has different definitions, which in turn give rise to a new name- transactional relationship. The victim dates her professor in turn for a grade. Though some may be consensual, it does not give some professors the liberty to ascertain their non-existent rights on female students at their universities.  Faculty members are viewed as leaders who mold the minds of students, whether male or female to eschew from such acts.  

Though the use of social media exponentially becoming wide spread in Nigeria, and more women are becoming more outspoken on the possible dangers that hampers female education in Nigeria, the problem is far from being solved. Though the universities may show unwillingness, politicians such as Delta state Senator Ovie Omo-Agege sponsored a sexual harassment bill that proposes to punish offenders; it doesn’t end there as the culture still lingers on. To bring a possible end to this, it is crucial that people every individual enrolled in Nigerian universities must treat this with all severity that not only hinders female education in Nigeria, but continues to engender an atmosphere in an environment where men continue to rule. 

Ebiuwairo Uwagboe, ebiuwairo.uwagboe@aun.edu.ng

 

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