Until recently, there was no law in the country, specifically targeted at tackling sexual harassment. The Sexual Harassment Bill, otherwise known as “A Bill for an Act to Make Provisions for the Prohibition of Sexual Harassment of Students,” has students as the primary focus. It passed second reading in the Senate last year which subsequently led to a strong opposition from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). However, sexual harassment isn’t only limited to universities, It’s encountered everywhere, the workplace, in the bus, at church, in neighborhoods, at restaurants, etc. Considering how frequently it occurs and how it can happen at all works of life, it’s a huge wonder nothing has been done by the senate to make it a general unlawful conduct.
Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Both the victim and the harasser can either be a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex. It can occur when either:
- The conduct is made as a term or condition of an individual’s employment, education, living condition or participation in a University community.
- The acceptance or refusal of such conduct is used as the basis or a factor in decisions affecting an individual’s employment, education, living condition, or participation in a University community.
- The conduct unreasonably impacts an individual’s employment or academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for that individual’s employment, education, living condition, or participation in a University community.
We’ve all been there, most women and men, married and single, at some point in their lives have experienced sexual harassment to one degree or another. It can occur in a variety of circumstances. The harasser can identify with any gender and have any relationship to the victim, including being a direct manager, director, indirect supervisor, co-worker, teacher, peer, clergy, or colleague. It can happen in many different scenarios, including after-hours conversations, exchanges in the hallways, and non-office settings of employees or peers.
Types of Sexual Harassment
Generally speaking, there are two types of sexual harassment, “quid pro quo” and hostile environment.
Quid pro quo (meaning “this for that”) sexual harassment occurs when it is stated or implied that an academic, employment, or living decision about a student, employee, or tenant depends upon whether the individual submits to conduct of a sexual nature. Quid pro quo sexual harassment also occurs when it is stated or implied that an individual must submit to conduct of a sexual nature in order to participate in a University program, or be engaged professionally, etc. So, for example, if an employee is made to believe that a promotion is likely if the employee goes on a date with the employee’s supervisor, the employee is possibly being subjected to “quid pro quo” sexual harassment.
Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive working or learning environment or is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it affects a person’s living condition, ability to participate in or benefit from a University program/activity, or work effectively. While a person engaging in harassing behavior most often has some form of power or authority over the person being harassed, that is not always the case. The harasser can be a peer of the person being harassed. Sometimes the harasser is harassing a person who has power over them. For example, a supervisee can sexually harass a supervisor or a student can sexually harass a faculty member.
Examples of Sexual Harassment
The following descriptions, while not all-inclusive, will help you understand the types of behavior that are considered “conduct of a sexual nature” and that, if unwelcome, may constitute sexual harassment:
Unwanted sexual statements: Sexual or “dirty” jokes, comments on physical attributes, spreading rumors about or rating others as to sexual activity or performance, talking about one’s sexual activity in front of others and displaying or distributing sexually explicit drawings, pictures and/or written material. Unwanted sexual statements can be made in person, in writing, electronically (email, instant messaging, blogs, web pages, etc.) and otherwise.
Unwanted personal attention: Letters, telephone calls, visits, pressure for sexual favors, pressure for unnecessary personal interaction and pressure for dates where a sexual/romantic intent appears evident but remains unwanted.
Unwanted physical or sexual advances: Touching, hugging, kissing, fondling, touching oneself sexually for others to view, sexual assault, intercourse or other sexual activity.
One might also encounter sexually harassing behaviors outside work or school. People experience catcalling, being followed, sexual advances, groping or fondling, others exposing themselves, and many other unwelcome or threatening behaviors on the street or in public settings.
- The Sun. Voice of A Nation. http://sunnewsonline.com/sexual-harassment-bill-lecturers-fire-back-at-lawmakers/
- University of Michigan. Student life. Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center
- RAINN. https://www.rainn.org/articles/sexual-harassment