The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) has called for the review and update of laws that prohibit sexual harassment at workplaces.
Project Officer and Special Assistant to the Chairman of ICPC, Mrs Bunmi Olugasa, made the call in Abuja when HEIR Women Hub, with support from Ford Foundation, paid an advocacy visit on the Commission, as part of its strategies to nip the increasing long-existing crime in the bud.
According to Olugasa, the menace has persisted because perpetrators escape justice over the years, she also noted that the ICPC act prohibits the use of office for sexual aggrandisement, explaining that this remains an offence punishable before the law and an abuse not only of the victim but of the office which the perpetrator manages.
“There are several gaps in the law, yes societies are dynamic but our society makes it easy for perpetrators to escape justice.
“The clamour should be on the review of the laws but unfortunately we have learnt over time that when you improve the law, criminals also look for ways to beat the law and thereby beat justice,” she stated.
Olugasa said that according to the ICPC, anybody who uses his office to confer any kind of corrupt advantage for himself for benefit is guilty of an offence.
She expressed worry that many Nigerians were ignorant of some crimes and so take it as a norm, adding that sexual harassment offence has been watered down because society rather sees it as a way of appraisal when in actuality it can impede productivity.
“Instances where a boss continually hits the bottom of a female staff, most do not see this as harassment, and these things we realise are very uncomfortable and sometimes impede on one’s productivity and this needs to be addressed,” she said.
Similarly, Assistant Director, Public Enlightenment and Mass Mobilization Department, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mrs Esther Akor, said sexual harassment should be addressed by the Human Resource department in organisations.
She noted that many ladies have lost their jobs in private organisations for speaking out, while others face other challenges in the public sector. This, she opined, was why enforcers should be put in place to seek redress in case of any of these.
The Executive Director of HEIR Women Hub, a women and girls-based Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Anuli Aniebo Ola-Olaniyi, said there were no existing data on workplace sexual harassment unlike recent data on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) which is also widely published.
“We just feel we need our own data in Nigeria as most times we use the global data from UN but we seek to know how it affects us here in our climate, Nigeria, to enable the proffering of long-lasting solutions with the aim of totally eradicating this from our society,” she said.