SEXUAL HARASSMENT ON CAMPUS: THE LAW AND YOU
WHAT IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Over the last twenty years, laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace or school have defined the term to include part or all of the following conduct:
• Unwelcome or unwanted verbal, non-verbal, physical or visual conduct based on sex or of a sexual nature
• The acceptance or rejection of which affects an individual’s employment
• Which occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person
• Which unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance
• Which creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive work environment, or
• Which constitutes an abuse of authority
The following are some examples of sexual harassment acts:
• Uninvited physical contact or gestures
• Unwelcome requests for sex
• Sexual comments or jokes
• Intrusive questions or insinuations of a sexual nature about a person’s private life
• Displays of offensive or pornographic material such as posters, pinups, cartoons, graffiti or calendars
• Unwanted invitations
• Offensive communications of a sexual nature (letters, phone calls, faxes, e-mail messages, etc.)
• Staring or leering at a person or at parts of his/her body
• Unwelcome physical contact such as massaging a person without invitation or deliberately brushing up against him/her
• Touching or fiddling with a person’s clothing e.g. lifting up skirts or shirts, or putting hands in a person’s pocket
SEXUAL HARASSMENT AS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE
Women’s advocates around the world work to further women’s right to be free from sexual harassment. Critical to these efforts to combat sexual harassment has been the growing recognition of sexual harassment as a form of violence against women which violates women’s human rights. States are obligated under international law to take effective steps to protect women from violence and to hold harassers and/or their employers accountable for sexual harassment in the workplace or school.
Sexual harassment is a violation of women’s human rights and a prohibited form of violence against women in many countries. Sexually harassing conduct causes devastating physical and psychological injuries to a large percentage of women around the world. Harassment directed against women is an obstacle to women’s empowerment, interferes with the integration of women in the workforce, reinforces the subordination of women to men in society, violates women’s dignity and creates a health and safety hazard in school or at work.
Sexual harassment in the workplace or school is a violation of women’s human rights and a prohibited form of violence against women. Sexual harassment causes incalculable economic, psychological and physical harm to its victims and serves to reinforce the subordination of women to men in the workplace or school.
Sexual Harassment and Human Rights Law
There are three ways in which sexual harassment in the workplace or school can be understood as a violation of fundamental principles of human rights law.
1. Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that violates the equal protection or antidiscrimination provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (the Women’s Convention), and the ILO Discrimination (Employment and Against Women (CEDAW), the committee charged with monitoring implementation of the Women’s Convention, acknowledged in General Recommendation 19 that gender-specific violence, such as sexual harassment in the workplace or school, is a form of discrimination that “seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men.” Seeking to encourage the elimination of this form of discrimination, the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women calls on governments and employers to “enact and enforce laws and develop workplace or school policies against gender discrimination, especially …regarding discriminatory working conditions and sexual harassment” and to develop mechanisms “for the regular review and monitoring of such laws.”
Against Women (CEDAW), the committee charged with monitoring implementation of the Women’s Convention, acknowledged in General Recommendation 19 that gender-specific violence, such as sexual harassment in the workplace or school, is a form of discrimination that “seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men.” Seeking to encourage the elimination of this form of discrimination, the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women calls on governments and employers to “enact and enforce laws and develop workplace or school policies against gender discrimination, especially …regarding discriminatory working conditions and sexual harassment” and to develop mechanisms “for the regular review and monitoring of such laws.”
2. Sexual harassment constitutes a violation of the right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Women’s Convention, the ILO Convention No. 155 (Occupational and Health) and the ILO Convention No. 161 (Occupational Health Services). CEDAW General Recommendation 19 also recognizes that sexual harassment may “constitute a health and safety problem.” The Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, adopted at the Third World Conference on Women held in July 1985, emphasized that sexual harassment is a work related health hazard that should be prevented and corrected.
3. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women describe sexual harassment as a form of violence against women that is “incompatible with the dignity and the worth of the human person” and that “prevents women from making a contribution commensurate with their abilities.” The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights also addressed sexual harassment out of concern for dignity. The Programme proclaims that “gender-based violence and all forms of sexual harassment and exploitation, including those resulting from cultural prejudice and international trafficking, are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person, and must be eliminated”
LAWS IN NIGERIA
Section 224 of the Criminal Code Act Laws of the Federation 2004 (offences against morality)
Any person who-
1) By threats or intimidation of any kind procures a woman or girl to have unlawful carnal connection with a man, either in Nigeria or elsewhere; or
2) By any false pretence procures a woman or girl to have unlawful carnal connection with a man either in Nigeria or elsewhere; or
3) Administer to a woman or girl, or causes a woman or girl to take, any drug or other thing with intent to stupefy or overpower her in order to enable any man, whether a particular man or not, to have unlawful carnal knowledge of her;
Is guilty of a misdemeanor, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.
CRIMINAL LAW OF LAGOS STATE 2011
S.257 (b) states
Any person who knowingly sends, or attempts to send, by post anything which encloses an indecent or obscene print, painting, photograph, lithograph, engraving, book, card, or article, which has on it, or in it, or on its cover, any indecent, obscene, or grossly offensive words, marks, or designs, is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for one(1) year.
Chapter 25 – Sexual Offences
S. 258: Rape
S. 259: Sexual Assault by Penetration
S. 260: Attempt to commit rape and sexual assault by penetration
S. 261: Sexual Assault
S. 262: Sexual Harassment
(1) “Any person who sexually harasses another is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three(3) years.
(2) Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favours, and other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which when submitted to or rejected –
(a) Implicitly or explicitly affects a person’s employment or educational opportunity or unreasonable interferes with the person’s work or educational performance
(b) Implicitly or explicitly suggests that submission to or rejection of the conduct will be a factor in academic or employment decisions or
(c) Creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive learning or working environment
The following are some scenarios of creating a hostile or intimidating environment in schools:
• Anyone uses sexually suggestive cartoons in teaching a subject not related to sex.
• During recess and/or lunch time, a group of students hanging out in the playground and rate female students who are playing/ chatting/ staying there. As a result, some of the female students avoid staying in the playground.
• In the staff room where there are both female and male colleagues, some colleagues display nude pictures as screen savers on the computer; or some like to exchange obscene jokes with each other in the presence of other colleagues of the opposite sex.
• Staff members make sexual jokes or discuss their sex lives within earshot of other staff/ students on the school premises.
• A group of students hijack classroom discussion and turn it to sexual topics. Students of the opposite sex feel offended and do not want to join the discussion.
Article by Itoro Eze-Anaba,
Partnership for Justice