CASES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND ASSAULT ON CAMPUSES: What is to be done?
CASES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND ASSAULT ON CAMPUSES: What is to be done?
Abibat Jimoh â€“ Secretary DSM Women Committee
Sexual harassment/assault has become an epidemic on campuses. Unfortunately, few of these incidents are reported due to fear of stigmatization by the victims.
According to research, at least one in 5 female students is at risk of sexual assault/harassment. The perpetrators include male lecturers who utilize their role to extract or force sexual gratification from female students. Also other categories of staff as well as male students have been known to harass female students sexually.
Unfortunately, instead of finding a way to deal with this problem decisively by making rape and sexual harassment crimes that cannot be justified in any manner, managements of tertiary institutions are now apparently helping rapists and sexual predators on campuses to have a field day in their evil. Now on many campuses, tertiary institution managements have brought up several offensive rules on so-called ‘indecent dressing’ on campuses. Some of the rules say that female students should not be seen from 10 pm till dawn, a period which is considered odd hours, female students must not dress in manner that may attract rapists and many more etc.
These rules which are aimed at making students, especially female students, to conform to a certain kind of “moral” way of dressing will only help to lend credence to the usual excuse of sexual predators that they were seduced into harassing their victims because of the way she dressed or walked etc. The conclusion of this kind of approach is that women are to be blamed for any assault/harassment they experience and therefore the only way to avoid sexual harassment is for them to dress appropriately or walk at “normal hours”. This reigning but completely wrong idea within the so-called ivory towers has contributed significantly to the present and alarming situation on our campuses where sexually predatory lecturers now feel so emboldened to the extent of even boasting publicly about their acts.
We in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemn this sort of “victim blaming” approach that managements of tertiary institutions adopt towards cases of rape and sexual harassment. Students and education workers must challenge with a mass campaign this kind of wrong mindset.
Rape is not an act of impulse. Research shows that 75% of rape cases are planned in advance. Bearing these statistics in mind, it therefore shows that the manner of dressing and walking in the night cannot be a valid excuse for rapists and their apologists. Why is there no case of a man/guy that has been raped because he was indecently dressed or for walking at odd hours before? Rape is about power and control that some men feel they can freely exhibit on women. However, it is not only on campuses that women face violation. Rape and sexual harassment also occur in the larger society including at secondary schools, workplaces, hospitals, religious centres etc. Rape and sexual harassment are products of patriarchy â€“ a false idea that men are superior to women which emerged just as class society developed because the new dominating classes required a philosophy to support and reinforce their exploitation of the surplus produced by their communities and also to ensure that their wealth is transferred through the male line. This also explains why we have a male-dominated world wherein the predominant view of women is as domestic slaves. Women are believed to be inferior to men. They are also viewed as sex objects for enjoyment and many more.
Discrimination, subjugation and oppression of the female gender developed and were perfected as different class society emerged from the slave era to the feudal era and the period we are presently which is capitalism. Oppression took different forms as society moved from one class society to another but the agenda was the same. Under capitalism, the oppression of women is being sustained by the system because it allows the exploitation of the unpaid labour of women in domestic work (cooking, washing etc.), taking care of the home and children, taking care of aged parents, early education of the children â€“ activities that the state should be responsible for. For instance, old people’s homes are rare in Nigeria and where they exist are private concerns that can only be afforded by the very rich. So how are the millions of old people in this country being cared for? The answer is the unpaid labour of working women. It is the same with the children and with every important aspect of our lives. While these activities are important for the sustenance of the family and society, instead of being praised, women are demeaned for doing these and are regarded as slaves of men.
Majority of the women, working women, who do all these are in turn workers who work just like the men in the civil service, factories, schools, hospitals etc. They undergo the very same 8am â€“ 4pm daily routine as the men but when they get back home after spending hours in traffic, they now have to spend the next hours scrubbing floors, cooking and washing diapers. It is in this sense that women are said to be doubly oppressed under capitalism â€“ firstly as women and secondly as workers.
We in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and Education Rights Campaign (ERC) call for a campaign against sexual assault/harassment that calls for perpetrators to face necessary disciplinary actions. That campaign should be raised on campuses by the students’ unions, staff unions, left and progressive students’ organizations. We also call on the leadership of labour movement to initiate a national wide campaign against sexual harassment in schools, workplaces and communities across the country. We also call for creation of a special department on campuses and at workplaces that mainly deals with legal, psychological, physical aid for women who face sexual harassment, assault or violence. Also, such department should be under democratic control of workers. Furthermore, women should be educated on their rights and where and how to report cases of sexual harassment and assault.
The bourgeois class dominates mostly all aspects of the society including education sector, such that curriculums have been furnished to their tastes by portraying capitalism as the best system that will solve problems of society and humanity at large. This reflects in the learning and instructional materials used in schools that pronounce capitalism as the best, whereas reverse is the case.
Truly, some concessions can be won under the present system but it should be clearly noted that no matter the ‘reforms’ that take place, it cannot totally liberate women. Only a radical transformation of the capitalism itself and its replacement by a system where women will be equal to men not just on paper (law) but in reality will ensure that the double oppression women face is defeated once and for all. Therefore, a fight to end in sexual harassment and assault must be linked to the overthrow of capitalism and for the installing of a democratic socialist system – a system that eliminates the material conditions for exploitation and oppression of women and thereby ensures among other things gender equality and equal representation of women in all areas of the society.