The BBC documentary “sex for grades “ broke out early this week and since then a couple of things have happened. The lecturers involved have been rightly suspended from work and one from his position as pastor(???) in his church. (Lord have mercy!)
Social media is awash with stories from victims boldly naming and shaming lecturers in different universities while alumni WhatsApp groups are active with posts, tales and arguments, parents with children in university are horrified and have placed calls to their children asking if they were or are victims. All of society is up in arms bristling with righteous indignation.
But we all suffer from collective amnesia, for these stories are not new. It was just last year that a female student of the Obafemi Awolowo University recorded the voice of her lecturer asking her to cooperate with him by sleeping with him to pass his course.
Earlier this year, a female student of Ekiti State University recorded her naked lecturer whom she lured into her apartment after his demand for sexual favors.
The advent of smart phones has led to more concrete evidence of things we all are aware have been happening for a long time. If a poll were to be taken, I am sure that all of us would admit to knowing a victim or two, having heard rumors and having been victims ourselves.
I have been aware of these stories since the 80s when I was in the university and I know that there are many, many more notorious lecturers ( both male and female) who have taken to sexually harassing students ( also both male and female ) and demanding sexual favours for grades.
I am also aware that there are many same sex violations by lecturers against their students. Stories abound of female lecturers who prey on boys and male lecturers who sodomize their male students or fail them because they want to sleep with their girlfriends.
What is new is the advent of social media through which phones can now be used to record conversations and acts and where exposure is made public knowledge.
But the question is how did we get here and what part has society contributed in the sordid state of affairs.
The truth is that we are all complicit .
Parents who would rather believe the lecturers than their children, who though highly placed would rather not make a fuss but quietly withdraw their children from the school or ask for a different department.
Parents who will go beg the lecturer or persuade them with gifts rather than do the proper thing by exposing the lecturer and standing up for their child. Parents who berate the child for being “squeamish “ and refusing to do what ever it takes to make the grades.
Lecturers and administrators who are not perpetrators but who are aware of the act and chose to remain silent in order not to rock the boat or to remain in the good graces of their colleagues. Lecturers and administrators who know what goes on in every “cold room” that dot our university campuses yet choose to turn a blind eye.
Students who pressure their mates to yield to the demands of the lecturers or who even sell them out.
The questions we should begin to ask ourselves are (a) what we going to do about this menace? Are we just going to continue to talk about it until some other hot story hits the public space and we promptly forget? ( b) What are we going to do to ensure steps are taken to weed out the bad eggs and that perpetrators are adequately punished and not just suspended or dismissed? There should be criminal consequences for lecturers who sexually harass their students.
( c) What are we going to do to provide safe spaces for our children to talk freely without fear of repercussions?
(d) When are going to start the necessary discussions with our boys that a woman’s body belongs to her and that he doesn’t have a right to it without her consent no matter how highly placed he is? I say this because I remember stories I have heard about group rape. Where a girl goes to visit a boy either because he is a friend or she is dating him and he and his friends take turns in RAPING with her just because they can. Most boys see it as having fun and do not realize that rape is a crime and that they can be jailed for it nor do they realize the long lasting effects it has on the girls they rape.
(e) When are we going to tell men that NO consent means rape whatever the situation and circumstance and that positions of power do not entitle them to women’s bodies?
(f) When are we going to empower our girls with the tools they need to understand what sexual harassment means, what it looks like and how to deal with it?
The truth is that many women don’t even know when they are being harassed sexually. The lines have been blurred over the years and most girls think it’s normal for a man in a position of authority to want to have some sexual relations with them.
(g) When are we going to let lecturers know that a student’s body is not their own part of the “ egunje “ or spoils of office for being a lecturer? I say this because it’s the Nigerian mentality that you must have fringe benefits from whatever office you occupy and so many harbour the belief that the bodies of their students are akin to their job allowances and so free to indulge.
(h) When are we going to demand criminal action against sexual exploiters and ensure that victims are adequately compensated?
Society is the main victim of these acts of sexual harassment’ls and we can see the reward of our nonchalance by the number of unemployable graduates that are entering the work space. I dare say this is one of the major reasons for the high rate of ill educated and half baked graduates we have nowadays.
I am aware that sometimes both the students and the lecturers are consenting adults and that some students initiate the conversation as they seek to exchange their favours for grades. However, it is universally acknowledged that the onus is on the person with a greater authority to ensure that their office is not used as a cloak to perpetrate crimes.
The truth is that the rot is deep and so many are affected by it. We need to take the conversation beyond sex for grades as @unclesolutionY tweeted and talk about sex for jobs, sex for healing -from pastors and imams, sex for political appointments, sex for transfer and sex for promotions. The stories abound and must be told .
People’s bodies should not be legal tender.