Nipping Sexual harassment and Gender-Based Violence in the bud formed the crux of the discussion at a stakeholders’ meeting organised by the University of Lagos in collaboration with Northwestern University for Deans and Directors of the University of Lagos on Thursday, August 19, 2021.
The meeting chaired by the immediate past Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Development Services, Professor Folasade Ogunsola, was kickstarted with a brief welcome address by her successor, Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa.
The meeting held in two batches of morning and afternoon sessions with presentations from Professor of Mass Communication, Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika and Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa.
There were panel discussions at both sessions during which panellists drawn from strategic offices and committees such as the Anti-Sexual Harassment Committee, Medical Centre, Student Affairs Division and Counselling Unit shared experiences on sexual violence cases on campus and how it is being handled.
In her presentation titled “Understanding Sexual and Gender-based Violence”, Prof. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika described sexual violence as an attempt to obtain a sexual act, while sexual harassment refers to unwelcome sexual advances, among other things. She highlighted various forms of sexual assault to include rape, revenge pornography, retaliation, dirty jokes, fondling etc., the effects of sexual and gender-based violence, and admonished all present not to deny its reality, but handle it as an image and moral issue.
Some of those present agreed with Prof. Ogwezzy-Ndisika’s presentation, they also identified cultural challenges such as patriarchy, sex for grades in tertiary institutions as well as sexual harassment as some other issues to be looked into. The speakers advocated pragmatic steps such as enforcement of a dress code as part of measures to stem the tide of sexual harassment in higher institutions.
The Law was at the heart of Prof. Atsenuwa’s presentation, titled “Role of Law and Policy addressing Sexual and Gender-based Violence: University of Lagos Act and the UNILAG Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy”, the incumbent DVC in charge of Development Services reeled out provisions of the Nigerian law, the criminal/penal codes of several states in Nigeria on sexual harassment; the University of Lagos policy on sexual harassment, the objectives of the policy, the University’s responsibilities as an institution in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence, and so on.
In a closing remark, the convener, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola expressed hope that through the workshop, members of staff and students will be more aware of the University’s policy on sexual harassment.