‘Rape for Grades’

Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels by Grace Anaja Rape for grades is a well-known phenomenon. It involves dangling academic grades in exchange for sexual favors.  Even if one party – in this case, the students – consents to trade sexual favors for improved grades, the power dynamics between the school’s employee and the student means that one cannot consent without the niggling fear that their refusal may mean failure. Thus, it is considered rape. This is a condemnable act prevalent in many universities in Nigeria – public and private alike – and worldwide. It seems to happen more in public universities, I believe, because certain lecturers feel they are doing you a favor by teaching you, and as such, you should give them something in return: money, gifts, or worse, sex. Some ask subtly with the guise of offering help, friendship, or extra support. Others demand it and expect no questions asked. A study by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reveals this form of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against female students could result in outcomes ranging from shame, loss of self-esteem, unwanted pregnancies, poor academic performance, and in some extreme cases, suicide. Since there is a lack of trust in the system, sexual harassment and rape cases in universities are not reported because victims are not believed. They fear negative consequences even from other lecturers or perpetrators who are not sanctioned. This begs the question: why do these lecturers demand sex from female students? It is safe to say that some of these men are married and have children, some of whom are peers of the female students they prey on. Why is it important for them to abuse the power they are given? I wonder… if their daughters came home with stories of being raped by a lecturer for grades, what would their response be? One very flimsy excuse given as a cause is that some female students dress ‘indecently’ on the campus and that men already struggle to control their sexual urges and so might not be able to resist going after these girls. Many tertiary institutions have dress codes that students abide by. Often male and female students are inspected at the gates and halls of residence for ‘improper’ dressing. Whether a student was wearing the long flowing abaya or a strapless cropped top and mini skirt, it does not give any man, staff, or student alike the right to harass or assault her.  The problem is not with female students – what they wear, do, or say. The problem lies with perpetrators of sexual abuse, these male lecturers. After all, not all lecturers do it. So how do some uphold the ethics of their profession, and others disregard them? Another excuse is that female students who do not study hard become vulnerable to these lecturers. Doing well in assignments, tests, and exams and attending classes reduces one’s chances of being harassed. Yet, there are many cases of lecturers intimidating the ‘most intelligent’ female students. These randy men see these students as sex objects, nothing more. It is no wonder the release of the BBC Africa Eye documentary Sex for Grades in 2019 sparked a lot of response, protest, and action. Reporter Kiki Mordi and other journalists went undercover as students in Nigerian and Ghanaian universities to reveal the rate of sexual harassment by lecturers. Through their secret recordings over three months, they exposed professors and senior lecturers and caught them on camera grooming and seducing female students. Although it inspired national action by the Nigerian senate as it reintroduced legislation that would criminalize sexual advances by lecturers toward students and mandatory jail time for lecturers found guilty of sexual harassment, rape for grades is still on the rise in many universities. There are also cases of students deliberately setting up lecturers. I remember a life experience one of my lecturers told us that happened at a private university. Some students felt a particular male lecturer was too ‘wicked’ and harsh and decided to teach him a lesson as a class. Their plan involved having one of their mates, a lady, enter his office when no one was around, scream, and pretend to have been assaulted by him, with incriminating evidence alongside. Sadly, the plan worked, and the lecturer was reprimanded. When the truth came out, his reputation and career were destroyed. It was too late. As I remember this story, Kunle Afolayan’s Citation comes to mind, especially in the beginning part of the film, where a lecturer was set up by some students, and in the process of being exposed, he was killed and hit by an oncoming vehicle.  However, this does not rule out the existence of willful sexual relationships between students and lecturers. There have been cases where lecturers married their students. But this is not what I am making reference to. I’m referring to female students offering sex willfully to male lecturers for grades and, interestingly, other things. Of course, some reject these advances, and others why universities should implement more policies to take advantage of them.  Again, the problem is not with the profession but with the individual. As such, more policies should be implemented by universities to curb this global issue. Defaulting lecturers should be seen and severely dealt with as any other sex offender. No lecturer should be a ‘god’ in the institution. More safe spaces should be created for students and lecturers to report such incidents. Any form of harassment should be treated as what it is, an unlawful act.  Universities are institutions of learning and development and, therefore, should remain so.

Red Card to ‘Sextortion’

By Grace Anaja We attended the RedCard2Sextortion Campaign launch and panel discussion organized by Devatop Centre for Africa Development and supported by the United States Embassy in Nigeria on December 9, 2022, at the Raw Materials and Research and Development Council, Abuja. The discussions aimed to highlight and address sexual violence to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV). Devatop Centre for Africa Development is a youth-led nonprofit organization that focuses on combating and preventing human trafficking, empowering women and youths, and educational transformation.  Sextortion is coined from the words ‘sex’ and ‘extortion’, which usually occurs between an individual of higher authority coercing another from a lower cadre, demanding sexual favors. It is multidimensional as it occurs physically and online and cuts across various demographics: age, status, class, etc. Sextortion can also be in the form of cyber crimes like blackmail and threats by posting individuals’ private content, such as nude images, online for a fee. The forum was also an opportunity to commemorate International Anti–Corruption Day, which takes place on December 9 every year, as sextortion is a form of corruption. In his opening address, the Executive Director of Devatop, Joseph Chidiebere Osuigwe, sees sextortion as a hidden pandemic in the educational, religious, corporate, and non-corporate systems. He spoke about the varying forms of sextortion: in the educational system, it is termed sex for grades or admission; in the religious system, it is sex for deliverance, prayer, or breakthrough; in the corporate world, it is sex for promotion or employment; in the banking and finance sector, it is sex for investment, and so on. He reiterated the need to create awareness and combat the issue. Julie McKay, the representative of the United States Embassy, gave her remark and renewed the United States’ commitment to end GBV as online sexual harassment and exploitation are criminal offenses, and perpetrators use fraud, force, and coercion. She spoke about educating people, especially minors, about online sexual exploitation and abuse and showing compassion for victims. She urged everyone to increase the momentum towards ending GBV. There was a video report of the TALKAM project, a technology-driven program that was created to encourage individuals and critical stakeholders to speak up to end GBV, forestall human trafficking, and prosecute human rights violators. The project began in Kaduna, Niger, and the Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria to address all forms of gender-based violence – physical, sexual, psychological abuse, and economic isolation – through various approaches such as weekly radio programs, social media awareness, skit production, debates, video competitions and more. The project is in its fourth phase, which features an internship program involving teachers, youth, community leaders, women leaders, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), etc., who were trained as advocates to orient and empower women against GBV and human trafficking at the grassroots level and beyond. From a legal angle, the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 is a provision in the constitution to address the exploitation of individuals and prohibit all forms of violence. However, significant hindrances to ending GBV are the fact that certain provisions are not included in the act, the delay in passing the Sex-for-Grades bill into law, and the failure to provide safe spaces for victims and survivors to speak up. In the corporate world, every organization must implement policies against sexual harassment and sexual abuse. These policies can only be implemented in formalized settings. Some of the biggest perpetrators and most significant enablers of sextortion include the culture of silence and inadequate frameworks for prosecuting offenders. Survivors are afraid of the backlash from society in the form of victim shaming and victim blaming, which further emboldens perpetrators and family members who believe speaking up would lead to a scandal for the victim and the family. African society is highly patriarchal in nature, and this is ingrained in our culture and religion. Some sexual harassment policies are ineffective, and enough awareness has not been created in tertiary institutions. There is no specific law that criminalizes sexual harassment in universities. With the involvement of relevant stakeholders, possible solutions can be applied, such as providing mechanisms within schools to punish perpetrators and psychological support for survivors. Institutions should have specific policies and legal frameworks to address sextortion. Social media campaigns help to create more awareness about sextortion and technological innovations, especially mobile applications that are available for reporting cases of sexual harassment, as well as safe spaces to engage in conversations surrounding this issue. Avenues should be created in religious spaces to create awareness. Provisions should be made to avoid the re-victimization of individuals by lecturers or other staff in institutions and organizations. Parents should also be involved in the awareness processes and childcare service providers for those with disabilities and anyone vulnerable. The war against GBV in the form of sextortion is still ongoing, and through more concerted efforts, we can win this fight. It is possible. Cross-section of Panelists at the Red Card to Sextortion Event

Spotlighting NGOs Working to Help Survivors of Gender-Based Violence

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash by Ifeoluwa Ogunjobi Victims and survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) suffer devastating short- and long-term consequences to their physical and mental health. These Consequences may include severe physical injuries, unwanted pregnancies and exposure to HIV or other sexually transmitted infections, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the limited ability to complete daily tasks, suicidal thoughts among others. To put an end to GBV, it is important that frontline  response and intervention facilities for victims, as well as safe spaces for survivors, are made available. This should be led by the government but in most scenarios, civil society organizations lead the charge on helping women.  In commemoration of the #16DaysOfActivism against gender-based violence, here are ten organizations providing response, intervention and safe spaces to victims and Survivors of GBV.  Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF): Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) Centre is a fully equipped facility run by friendly, qualified staff who serve as first responders and efficiently determine the extent of services that will be required by each survivor,  in a warm, caring and safe  environment. The center serves as a safe haven where each survivor is helped in a step by step approach through the initial traumatic phase of their experience and the necessary follow-up visits. All services are free. Hotline: 08092100009,  080072732255 Stand to End Rape Initiative (STER): Stand to End Rape Initiative is a youth-led social enterprise commited to advocating against sexual violence, developing and providing prevention mechanisms, and supporting survivors with psychosocial services. They specialize in advocating for rape survivors by enlightening communities and the public on the need to end rape, stigmatization and victim-blaming. Hotline: 08095967000 Sexual Offences Awareness & Victims Rehabilitation Initiative (SOAR): SOAR is a non- profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to the prevention of all forms of child sexual abuse as well as provide care and support for victims and survivors.   Hotline: 08179080655  ‘Tiwalola’ Women against Rape Sexual Harassment and Exploitation (WARSHE): WARSHE is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization that provides human, material and emotional support for victims of rape, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation; assist victims of rape, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation to obtain justice; and educate girls and women on the subject of rape, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation. Hotline: 08034078730 Women’s Rights and Health Project (WRAHP): WRAHP is an innovative non-governmental non-profit organization that is committed to  the promotion of reproductive health, rights and general development of women, young people and communities. The Ireti Resource Centre is an Initiative of WRAHP, specially developed to  provide integrated legal and psychosocial support in a safe space for women, survivors of domestic violence, and other vulnerable persons across communities in Lagos State.  Helpline: 07003333111, 07011948577 Partnership for Justice: Partnership for Justice is a non-profit organization of professionals who share a commitment to equality, justice and globalization of human rights standards. Partnership for Justice works at all levels to offer services to victims of human rights violations and create linkages for the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria. Hotline: 08125152683  Women Safe House Sustenance Initiative: Women Safe House Sustenance Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and rehabilitating women and girls from all forms of gender based violence in Nigeria. Providing shelter, legal aid, healthcare and comprehensive services to women and girls of all ages who are survivors of rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, child marriage and sex trafficking.  Hotline: 08112663348  Project Alert: The Support Services Programme of Project Alert renders practical support to female victims of violence and their families. Advocating for zero tolerance to all forms of violence against women/young girls; and providing practical support services to female victims of violence. Hotline: 01-8209387  International Federation for Women Lawyers in Nigeria (FIDA): FIDA Nigeria is a non-profit, non-political, voluntary association of women called to the practice of law in Nigeria. FIDA Nigeria’s sole objective is to protect, promote and preserve the rights of women and children in Nigeria. FIDA Nigeria is committed to providing  free legal representation for indigent women and children, advocacy and policy campaigns, education and training, mediation and counseling services, and publishing information resources.  Hotline: 07088496115 Dorothy Njemanze Foundation: Dorothy Njemanze Foundation (DNF) works to end sexual and gender based violence through direct support for survivors, we promote basic ethics and values in the society by encouraging social responsibility, orientation and reorientation, addressing abuse related issues with the aim of aiding healing and re-integrating victims; Inspiring attitudinal change thereby reducing incidences to the barest minimum. Hotline: 07013333307 *** Building and developing response mechanisms and victim/survivor oriented facilities are key to eradicating gender based violence across all States in Nigeria. Do you know any other organization working to help survivors of violence? Share their information with us. Bookmark this blog and share with someone today.

Dear Men…Here Is How You Can Fight Gender-Based Violence

Photo by Thirdman on Pexel. By Eneojo Innocent Men and boys can be great allies in the race to stop gender-based violence. Ending the menace that is gender-based violence is a global priority and requires a collective effort. Here are 10 ways men and boys can fight gender-based violence. 1) Create A Safe, Violence and Trauma Free Environment for The Children: Avoid violence against intimate partners. This breaks the cycle of violence and shows children that violence is not okay. 2) Build Father-Child(Ren) Bond In Your Home: Genuinely caring for and being involved in how the family runs, the way chores are handled, the health and well-being of each member of the family, and the importance of bonding with spouses and children helps to reduce the rate of violence against women and girls and fosters a better emotional bond and balance. 3) Strip Away Toxic Masculinity And ‘Manliness’ Ideas: Fathers should help their sons dismiss the societal misconception that the context of masculinity and manliness is rooted in strength, dominance, and a lack of emotions. Doing this may change attitudes to seeking and receiving sexual relations, build a better expression of emotions and thus, reduce violence against women and children. 4) Learn to Listen: Men should teach boys to speak up and create a healthy listening atmosphere. People should be allowed to speak and be heard when they share a story detailing their abuse. Men should also encourage boys to speak up and act when girls and women are abused or disrespected. 5) Ask If You Can Help: As a man or a boy, if you suspect that a woman (or anyone else) close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help…then ask how you can. 6) Understand and practice consent: Any activity of sexual nature carried out without the other party’s consent is considered sexual violence. Men and boys should recognize this and ensure that they know and understand why consent is vital. 7) Avoid Behaviors That Humiliates and Harms Women and Girls: Men and boys should avoid abusive behavior such as rape, assault, catcalling, sexism, bullying (online or in person), slut shaming, revenge porn, sex trafficking, etc. 8) Start A Conversation: Share your experience with sexual violence – when you can – to help dismantle the stigma, stereotype, and taboo associated with gender-based violence and sex conversions concerning men. 9) Become A Connected Ally: Make a conscious effort to recognize and speak out against all forms of sexual abuse, especially those that seem subtle: catcalling, making inappropriate and discriminatory sexual comments, giving unwanted sexual attention, and sharing sexist jokes demeaning women. Also, call out every institutionalized misogyny and erasure of women in society. 10) Mentor Others: Mentor and teach boys and young men how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women (or anyone). Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs and participate actively in the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, including anti-sexist men’s programs. Lead by example. Ending gender-based violence benefits all of us.

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