Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate, yesterday, proposed between five to 14- year jail term without an option of fine for any educator involved in sexual offences in tertiary institutions.
In a proposed legislation titled: “A Bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions”, the Senate said sexual harassment must be defined in tertiary institutions as rape with strict liability for offenders to be prosecuted easily.
The Senate proposed that “the most effective way to deal with the offence of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions is to penalise the very impropriety of the act, with or without consent.”
The Bill prescribes expulsion for students who falsely accuse educators of sexual harassment.
The Bill reads: “An educator whose character is maligned is at liberty to sue for defamation under the law of defamation which is well-settled in our jurisprudence and needs no duplication in this bill.”
The Senate, however, declined to extend the bill to cover sexual abuses in primary, secondary schools, worship centres and work place, saying the Criminal and Penal Codes adequately dealt with those categories of abuses with sufficient clarity.
The Bill defined sexual offences as “sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student, or a prospective student, intimidating or creating a hostile or offensive environment for the student by soliciting for sex or making sexual advances.”
Other forms of sexual harassment identified in the Bill are grabbing, hugging, kissing, rubbing, stroking, touching, pinching the breasts, hair, lips, hips, buttocks or any other sensual part of the body of a student.
Sexual offences also include sending by hand, courier, electronics or any other means naked or sexually explicit pictures or videos or sex related objects to a student, and whistling or winking at a student. It also covers screaming, exclaiming, joking or making sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique or stalking a student.
Meanwhile, three years after it abandoned its plans to regulate the social media, the Senate has reintroduced a new Bill seeking a three-year jail term for anyone involved in the abuse of social media. There is, however, an option of fine of N150,000 or both.
The Bill is also proposing a fine of N10 million for media houses involved in peddling falsehood or misleading the public.
The Bill, which has already passed its first reading is titled: “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill 2019”.
The sponsor, Mohammed Sani Musa (Niger East), who heads the Committee on Senate Services, said: “Nigeria needs the legislation because it would protect its fragile unity.
“Some journalists will look at it as if we are trying to bring a legislation that will gag the social media or right to free press. It is a legislation that will guide how we can tolerate our activities on the social media.
“False information has been disseminated so many times and they have caused so many chaos in different parts of the world. See what happened in Rwanda, the xenophobic attacks. You can pass information as long as what you are passing is facts.
“If countries like Philippines, Singapore, Italy, Malaysia, Australia, France, Indonesia, Egypt are putting control to prevent the spread of false information, what stops us from doing it?
“If anyone is caught with this kind of situation, you cough out between N150,000 to a maximum imprisonment of three years or both. And if it is a corporate organisation that refused to block that false information despite the fact that they have been alerted by authorities not to disemminate that information for public interest and they still go ahead to do it, refusing to do that blockage will be penalised between N5 million to N10 million,” he said.