It is, however, disappointing to say that the Nigerian Labour Act is silent on this pervasive issue of global dimension as the responsibility for such description of or classification as to whether workplace sexual harassment is an offence is left to the organization to decide.
Also, it has been observed that most career and academic writers in Nigeria do not talk about sexual harassment in the workplace and when it is mentioned it is linked with workplace discrimination and not as an offence in itself.
THE CRIMINAL LAW OF LAGOS STATE 2011
It is, however, important to states that the Lagos State Government has classified Sexual Harassment as an offence within it jurisdiction. If you live and work in Lagos, note that sexual harassment is an offence.
Chapter 25, Section 262 of the Criminal Law of Lagos States 2011 states in subsection (1) that:
“Any person who sexually harassed another is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years.”
Subsection 2 of Section 262, defines Sexual harassment as “… unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favours, and other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which when submitted to or rejected-
- Implicitly or explicitly affects a person’s employment or unreasonably interferes with the person’s work or educational performance;
- Implicitly or explicitly suggests that submission to or rejection of the conduct will be a factor in academic or employment decisions; or
- Creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning or working environment.
Section 264 of the law addresses the issue of consent when it states in subsection (1) that
“For the purpose of this chapter, a person consents if he agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make and communicate that choice”
NATIONAL DIMENSION OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AS AN OFFENCE UNDER THE NIGERIAN LAW
By implication, The National Industrial Court of Nigeria, in a recent review of its procedure, implicitly and explicitly states that the court can be approached on issue bothering on sexual harassment at workplace.
For instance, a look at order 14 of the Civil Procedure rules, 2017 provides that an action in which an employee claims sexual harassment at workplace should spell out whether the act is any of the following
- Physical conduct of a sexual nature
- A verbal form of sexual harassment
- A non-verbal form of sexual harassment
- Quid pro quo harassment where an owner, employer, superior, member of management or co-employee undertakes or attempts to influence or influences the process of employment, training, discipline, dismissal, salary increments, or other benefits of an employee or job applicant in exchange for a sexual favour.
Because workplace sexual harassment is a global menace and a scourge various countries have passed laws and legislation to either criminalized it or tackle it as an unacceptable social nuisance.
United States of American
As far back as in 1964, Title V11 of the United States Civil Rights Act expressly condemns discrimination and sexual harassment likewise is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The United Kingdom has the Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) and the Equality Act 2010 directed against the act of unwelcome sexual advances at a workplace.
The German General Equal Treatment Act, stresses that a repeated offender of sexual harassment should be terminated from employment having carried out a proper investigation.
Latin America Countries
In Brazil, Mexico and other Latin American countries sexual harassment is viewed seriously. For example, a law was enacted in Mexico 2012 that places fines and levies ranging from $ 1000 to $ 20,000 on employers who tolerate the act of sexual harassment in their organizations.
Excepts for few countries in Africa where sexual harassment is treated as a criminal act most of the countries still don’t handle it with the seriousness that it deserves. The African perception of the role of women in general and to a large extent our cultural and religious leaning are major obstacles working against the criminalization of sexual harassment at an offence at the workplace.
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