I watched the BBC Africa Documentary: Sex for Grades and my stomach churned. I felt disgusted. Most of us have heard one story or the other of lecturers in Nigeria raping and coercing girls to engage in sexual acts in order for them to pass that subject or course. Seeing it up close (as close as a camera permits), watching the expressions of entitlement on these men’s faces, it hit home differently. I also realised that this crime had become so normalised that many of these men really didn’t see anything wrong with what they were doing.
Sexual harassment and abuse have been prevalent in Universities in Nigeria for decades. This criminal activity has been so normalised that most students find it hard to speak up. Society has long castigated women for speaking up about rape or any type of sexual abuse. The narrative always seems to end with the women being the reason for being taken advantage of and this creates an easy escape for the sexual predator.
Men should never feel entitled to women’s bodies under any circumstance. Lecturers need to be held accountable. They need to be brought to book, period! Unfortunately, after watching the BBC documentary, I’ve read saddening statements on social media — ‘Why should women be visiting lecturers in their office in the first place?” Sigh. In saner, more civilised climes, a student visiting a lecturer is actually encouraged. Your lecturers are fully vested in your success and meant to help you excel in school, not the other way round. Why? Because you are expected to give them feedback at the end of the semester. They are actually on your side. Let’s not even talk about the ripple effect it has on these girls as their intellect is reduced to nothing and the lie that their sexuality is the most important they can offer is perpetuated.
I admit this is definitely part of a bigger problem where, as a nation, we generally have a lack of accountability. Our leaders are never held accountable for their wrongdoing and in a lawless society, anything goes. But we have to start somewhere. We have to speak up. It may be hard to do, but we have to do away with the notion that speaking up is a wasted effort. Evil thrives in secrecy and I truly believe there is power in numbers.
If you’re being sexually harassed by your lecturer, tell someone, a trusted person or authority. I applaud BBC Africa for taking this bold step and I hope more lecturers are exposed. Also, understand that when you speak up against sexual harassment of any kind, you give others the boldness to do the same. I’ll end with this quote that pretty much sums up my thoughts.
“More women speaking up and seizing the helm of power can create its own momentum. It can change the culture that helps perpetuate those external forces.” – Nancy Birdsall