One practical way by which the sexual harassment of women in schools and workplaces can be addressed is through an appropriate and enforceable legislation.
Fortunately, a country sharing our predicament is attempting legislation in that direction.
Some critics, we have learnt, rejected an earlier bill because according to them, it was not all-encompassing; it did not cover harassment in workplaces and included a defence for consent. These have been addressed in the fresh attempt at passing the bill.
We could learn a lot from the Nigerian experience as we navigate the possibility of passing an enforceable law that would protect the dignity of our women from the harassment of cheap men and there are many of them.
This is our umpteenth time of visiting this subject. We have not come to the end of it yet. We intend to continue on this tangent until we start treating women with respect and not with the mindset of seeing them as sex objects available for our convenience.
An important and auspicious opportunity is staring us in the face and we must seize it now and deal with this inappropriate and widespread conduct.
The Nigerian Senate has taken the most practical move yet to stem the predatory activities of men on women and we await with keen interest how this, when it eventually becomes law, will impact on the interest of women's dignity in that country.
It behoves our august House of Parliament to learn from the Nigerian move.
Our female legislators — their numbers although comparatively low— should in our estimation cast the first stone. We think that surely their male counterparts would lend them the necessary support.
For us, the reaction from feminine groups to the subject so far is still below expectation. We have not witnessed an appreciable decibel of howling from them as it was with matters with political undertones. What we have seen are but isolated and uncoordinated reactions not enough to prompt a change of direction.
We find it appalling the jokes being put forth about sexual harassment by some men. Some even claim that women too have been sexually harassing men — something we find irrelevant at this stage when the burning issue has to do with verifiable pieces of evidence which have come to the public space.
By this commentary, we are calling on women groups to fight for the restoration of their dignity in schools and workplaces through the enactment of an all-encompassing legislation.
Special offices can be opened through non-governmental organizations to listen to complaints from victims of sexual harassment and address same. Verifiable stories can then be tackled through the appropriate state agencies.
The spate of sexual harassment will continue if sincere and effective mechanisms are not put in place to address the challenge.
We are glad FIDA — the association of women lawyers — has waded into the mess. It is our hope that others will follow suit.
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