Nigerian women and incessant sexual harassment by By Kaanayo Nwachukwu

Nigerian women are very articulate, highly educated and intelligent. They are industrious as well as capable of attaining, or exceeding, the same heights as their male counterparts. But over the years, Nigerian men have continued to device ways and means of subjugating and turning Nigerian women into mere objects of satisfying their sexual desires. In no place in this country is this shameful attitude towards women far more visible and prevalent than on campuses nationwide.
In tertiary institutions across the country, some male lecturers adopt tactics that make it practically impossible for women to study in environments devoid of disturbance or annoyance by malevolent interference. This is because some lecturers and professors harass and intimidate their female students into giving them sex in exchange for grades. Female students who refuse sexual advances from these professors and lecturers are made to repeat courses, marked low or failed outright.
Lecturers extort money from female students who come from wealthy families or have rich relatives or husbands. That is if the students vehemently refuse to sleep with these unscrupulous men of letters. In lieu of sex and cash, these lecturers, sometimes, would settle for some expensive gift such as a wristwatch, designer clothes, a bottle of perfume or deodorant, a pack of brand name underpants or a pair of shoes. Little wonder they have come to see what they do, which in sane countries would be frowned at as well as attract harsh penalties, as a fringe benefit of teaching in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions.
One would ordinarily think these female students can run to school authorities, particularly the senate of their universities, for justice. But this is not always the case as many disciplinary committees of Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning comprise none other than the very same men who institutionalised these unholy acts against their female students and who would fight tooth and nail to perpetuate the system. As a result, many female students have either not graduated with their classmates or failed to proceed on national service with them.
That said, there are female students who really like and encourage the status quo. They are the lazy ones who don’t like to study. So they opt for a sleazy, cheap and easier route to success. The implication of this is that whereas lazy students graduate with better grades, the good ones are made to feel they are not good enough at anything.
However anyone looks at it, this trend is not good for the nation’s economy. This is because it makes room for those who don’t know their onions to run the economy of the country while those who truly know the stuff they are made of are left to question or doubt their own capabilities, even when given a chance to prove their worth.
Outside the university, another place where Nigerian men abuse Nigerian women is in the banking sector. Bank managers and their directors mandate their female staff members to attract or generate certain amounts of deposits to their banks or kiss their jobs goodbye. The pressure this direction puts on the female bank staffers sometimes necessitates them sleeping with men who are neither their husbands nor partners. Unconfirmed stories have it that while interviewing Nigerian women for bank jobs, one of the key questions they are usually asked by their interviewers is whether they would do whatever it takes to lure men into depositing and investing in their banks.
In a country where there is scarcity of jobs, let alone good-paying ones, most people in Nigeria would do almost anything to work in the bank, an industry which, along with oil companies, pays better than many other employment sectors. But it is not only in the universities and the banks that Nigerian women are being made to give their bodies in exchange for something. In virtually all sectors of the Nigerian economy – from manufacturing, defence, sports, works, housing, administration and agriculture – the story is pretty much the same.
To some Nigerian men in positions of authority, it has become something of a status symbol and an indicator of “bigmanism” to brag about how many Nigerian women they slept with before helping them secure and retain employment or climb the corporate ladder. A case in point is the recent declaration by a former minister that being in long term relationships, in the past, with women from a particular part of the country exonerated him from being a tribalist.
What men like this former government official do not give a thought to before treating Nigerian women as badly as they do are the eternal consequences of their actions. Women are the backbone of our families and communities. No nation can function properly or progress without vital contributions from its womenfolk. As such, Nigerian men, in high and low places, need to turn a new leaf and begin to give Nigerian women the credit and respect they rightfully deserve.
Other than some antiquated laws, which are hardly enforced, the government seems to be doing exactly nothing to make the ugly trend of molesting Nigerian women history. For instance, it is only in Nigeria that a judge of competent jurisdiction can determine that a rape victim asked to be raped because she simply visited the home of the man who raped her.
Nigeria is a socially stratified society. Therefore, the police and the legal system often appear to automatically side with men of higher social status whenever they are accused of raping women of humble or poor background. This has caused many raped victims to lick their wounds in silence and solemn misery, rather than come out to tell their stories.
Until the government takes checking the menace of sexual harassment of women at schools, workplaces and homes seriously, Nigeria cannot comfortably beat herself in the chest and proclaim she is a leader in Africa, not to talk of outside the shores of the continent.


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