The argument of sexual assault has been a farfetched discussion for decades and we can’t help but indicate the little feel of comfort after the recent emergence of the social media trend #MeToo. The argument has revealed several disturbing cases involving the transgression of male superiors sexually dominating young girls and women. We know of Harvey Weinstein, and of Michael Douglas and even of Hollywood sensation Ben Afflick. But what we don’t know of is of the Mr Seun and Mr Adeyemi that work as our head of offices and managing directors and college professors.
Sexual assault and harassment ranges from a number of acts including forced marital sex, rape by strangers, group rape, rape of children or minors, trafficking of female and girls, female genital mutilation, and forced exposure to pornography. The keyword in all these offences is ‘forced’. Although the argument is not limited by sex and happens to both men and women, everyday women in the country are threatened and frightened by the sight and the possibilities of being harmed by no other but a fellow human being with a male gentile and a beard (Sometimes). Studies do show that in most countries one in five women report sexual assault by an intimate partner and one third of young girls report sexual imitation; and these are only the women who summon the courage to come forward; regardless there are countless women who die in silence.
Most of the problem is caused by the ideology of women being inferior to men and them having to submit to the male figure in all aspects of life. A walk in the market for a young female in Nigeria is dangerous, a promotion in the job space is impossible if the woman cannot submit herself sexually and a young student has slimmer chances of getting a decent grade without trading sex to her professor. This is a problem, a problem that needs to be addressed; the world is difficult enough, we shouldn’t have to fear ourselves now.
From time, female students in Nigerian universities have had to cave in to the sexual threats of male faculty members in order to maintain tangible grades and finish college; upon their resistance, they are assaulted and raped.
It has been argued continuously in favour of men that perhaps these females are offering themselves as bait and are making themselves available by dressing provocatively and simply being attractive, but unfortunately even women who are considered unattractive by male society are assaulted and then told to be delighted that someone even finds them slightly engaging; but what people fail to point out is that the real culprit here are the people who cannot seem to control themselves. “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.”- Ebiuwairo Uwagboe.
However, after the deed has been done; what seems most disappointing and embarrassing is that none of the cases reported are ever taken seriously; the offenders go free and the victims are left to suffer in the trauma and pain caused by the series of assaults.
The question of whether the female gave consent in always brought up, and more often than should be it is made known that these women are in fact misunderstood. What is regarded as consent? Consent is freely given; it is agreed upon without manipulation, pressure, force or alcoholic influence, which means that both persons must be in an accurate and clear state of mind in order to make rational decisions. Consent is reversible; a person’s mind can change or alter regardless of the current situation or previous encounter sexually. Consent is not determined by what you wear or where you go and definitely not what you’ve done in the past. Most importantly and most misunderstood, silence is not consent, and in fact silence is regarded as a bad sign and a signification of fear and confusion rather than approval and assent. And lastly, consent is not only important the first time and is valid in relationships and marriages; every time.
And of course, laws are placed for situations such as this protecting minors or kids below the age of 18 and also people who are intoxicated and passed out.
Moving back to the discussion of sexual assault in colleges, the national assembly graciously tackled the problem by the introduction of the sexual assault bill in 2016. The bill was sponsored by Ovie Omo-Agege with the assist of 46 other senators;
“When passed into law, it makes it a criminal offence for any educator in a university, polytechnic or any other tertiary educational institution to violate or exploit the student-lecturer fiduciary relationship for sexual pleasures,” Ovie Omo-Agege said.
The bill provides a compulsory five-year jail term for lecturers who sexually harass students. When passed into law, vice chancellors of universities, rectors of polytechnics and other chief executives of institutions of higher learning will go to jail for two years if they fail to act within a week on complaints of sexual harassment made by students. The bill expressly allows sexually harassed students, their parents or guardians to seek civil remedies in damages against sexual predator lecturers before or after their successful criminal prosecution by the State.
It is my belief that sexual assault can be prevented but apparently there is urgent need for a paradigm shift from the radical feminists’ movement of the 1970s to expanded prevention efforts which recognize differences based on culture, sexuality, ability and age and gender.37 It also involves recognizing that although some men (and relatively few women) are clearly part of “the problem” and others are clearly already part of the solution, a great number of men and women fall somewhere in the middle. This bulk of people in the middle, especially the male gender, may be well-meaning men who are looking for opportunities and direction about what steps they can take in preventing sexual assault. It is therefore time for an all inclusive fight against sexual assault; a fight which should be devoid of sexist bias for greater efficacy; and a fight which indeed is attainable.