It is unlawful to harass a person be it an applicant or employee because of that person’s sexuality. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Harassment includes sexual harassment, or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It can also include offensive remarks about a person’s sex.
Harassment is illegal not just for the victims but for others who witness it because it creates a hostile environment. Though both genders can be harassed, women are more affected because they are seen as the vulnerable ones. If any harassment occurs, the victim has 180 days to file a charge and federal employees have 45 days to contact an Equal Employment Opportunity to report the case.
In Nigeria, section 224 of the criminal Code Acts Laws of the Federation 2011, S. 262 (1) states that any person who sexually harassed another is guilty of a felony and is liable for 3 years imprisonment. As good as this sounds, many of our women are still not bold to report sexual harassment because there are people who will ask them to remain silent so as not to lose their jobs or be termed as insubordinate.
We see sexual harassment play out in schools e.g secondary schools and universities. I remembered vividly one of my English lecturer who sat beside me in the exam hall and said Sanmi, don’t bother yourself too much on this exam because you can’t graduate without passing through me. This same lecturer I heard has had his way with some of the students in the school even though he was married at the time.
I got 28/30 in my continuous assessment but my instructor couldn’t find my exam paper. I expected nothing less than an A plus as my grade for that English course but because my lecturer felt entitled to my body, he decided to play God. God took him away at last and somehow the board decided to let us go after I had paid for an extra year, can you just imagine?
Another case that happened in school was during the exam , a guy that sat at my back was clearly copying my work and the next thing I heard from my male lecturer was that I should go and submit. I was like excuse me. He said why was I pretending I didn’t know the guy behind me was copying my answers and I was like the last time I checked how do I see who is behind me? He said for that fact that I was bold to even question his authority, he would write me up for insubordination. This was in my final year in school and I had to stay behind after the exams to look for those close to him in the admin to plead on my behalf. The only sin I committed was being a woman. A man committed a crime and I was being punished for it.
We need to change the narrative. What of a day my mom sent me to the meat sellers in the market and a man tried to touch my boobs pretending to be reading the inscription on my shirt, I felt violated. Whenever I remember this incident, I still feel like having pepper spray for protection.
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What’s the way forward? Sexual harassment should not be taken with kids glove. Many ladies don’t go reporting cases of sexual harassment because of the embarrassing questions they are made to answer when they report such cases, few of which are: Are you a virgin?
Why did you put on this kind of clothes when you know you are not interested in men harassing you?
I have heard of police officers harassing ladies who reported rape to them. Tell me who can our ladies then run to?
We need stricter laws on sexual harassment and we need a government that will bring all perpetrators to book. Then and only then can we say we are making a heads way concerning this menace.
We can share articles about it to bring the topic to the fore front till someone in the authority looks into it. We will continue to say no sexual harassment in the workplace. We want to have a great atmosphere at work please. We deserve the peace of mind that money can’t buy when we work. Our bodies don’t belong to every men we come across, it is our body.
Learn to respect boundaries.
I am Oluwasanmi Akomolafe and I say no to sexual harassment at the Work place in Nigeria.
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