The FG will set up mobile courts to prosecute sexual harassment offenders

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Minister for Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye.

The Federal Government is set to introduce mobile courts to tackle sexual harassment issues.

The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, announced this at a one-day National Stakeholder’s Engagement on Sexual Harassment Prevention held on Tuesday in Abuja.

Organized by the ICPC in partnership with the Gender Mobile Initiative, the event highlighted the pressing issue of sexual harassment, particularly in the country’s tertiary institutions. Mrs. Kennedy-Ohanenye emphasized that the new measures aim to combat this widespread problem.

“Sexual harassment extends beyond tertiary institutions, affecting even primary and secondary schools, with incidents often involving teachers and sometimes students,” she said.

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She also mentioned ongoing collaborations with hotel owners to prevent under-aged children from checking in and to report such attempts to authorities, aiming to curb the pervasive issue of sexual harassment.

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Mrs. Kennedy-Ohanenye called on stakeholders to actively work towards minimizing sexual harassment to reduce stigmatization and boost the self-esteem of victims.

Dr. Musa Aliyu, Chairman of the ICPC, stressed that without significant consequences for offenders, the problem will persist. He highlighted that sexual harassment and related societal issues, including gender discrimination, damage the nation’s reputation.

“Only a sustained, focused, and unified campaign can effectively address the challenge of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions,” he stated.

Dr. Aliyu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, mentioned that the ICPC, supported by the Ford Foundation, has previously initiated a project to address sexual harassment and abuse of office. This project led to the creation of model anti-sexual harassment policies for various educational levels.

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He explained that the ICPC worked with the Gender Mobile Initiative to draft a model policy for tertiary institutions, which the Federal Ministry of Education approved for both primary and tertiary institutions.

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“These policies are not mandatory for adoption word for word but serve as comprehensive guidelines for institutions,” he said.

He urged participants to remember that anyone, regardless of status, designation, or gender, could be a victim or perpetrator of sexual harassment.

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“It is well-known that Nigeria has many laws and policies, but proper implementation is often lacking. The success of these model policies relies heavily on the active participation and commitment of stakeholders.”

Omowumi Ogunrotimi, founder and Executive Director of the Gender Mobile Initiative, encouraged stakeholders to focus on prevention rather than response.

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“Collaborating with ICPC, we designed a policy through extensive community engagement. In 2019 and 2020, we held a national conference to validate this policy with key stakeholders, including the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).”

The policies prioritize leadership, participation, aspiration, and experiences of those most affected by structural inequity, particularly students.

“We aim to ensure that these policies are implemented, recognizing that in Nigeria, policy creation does not always lead to action. This is why we’ve involved over 25 Commissioners of Education from across the federation in this program,” she concluded.

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