1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Sexual harassment is the most common form of sexual victimisation and was also described as a form of social control by men to ‘keep women in their 1 places’. In spite the importance of this topic in the social context that we live in, it is interesting that for several years there was silence on the issue of sexual harassment occurring in institutions of higher 2 education throughout the world . In 1978 the project on Status and Education of Women of the association of American College referred to sexual harassment as a ‘hidden issue ‘to highlight the issue the silence that surrounded sexual harassment at both individual and 2 organizational levels. However, until recently, there are few researches carried out in the African region
One major challenge in the Nigerian university system is the question of sexual harassment. Though under-reported, the menace of sexual harassment assumed a critical dimension in Nigeria’s higher institutions of learning (Imonkhe, Aluede & Edogho, 2012). Aluede (2000:2) conceived it as an “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature”. The author further described it as “a silent disease that is seriously eroding academic excellence in tertiary institutions in Nigeria.”
Basically, sexual harassment encompasses behaviours that are not welcome by an individual (the recipient does not want it), unsolicited (the recipient did not ask for it), and repeated (the behaviour is not one isolated incident). Therefore, a behaviour that constitute sexual harassment in the presence of the following:
(a) submission to such conduct is explicitly or implicitly a term or condition for an individual’s employment or participating in educational programmes; or
(b) submission to, or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment or academic decisions affecting the individual; or
(c) When such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an employee’s work performance or student’s academic performance, creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment (Imonkhe, Aluede and Idogho, 2012).
Etymologically, “sexual harassment” came to be in the 1960s as coined by feminists after they contended that the legal system, being male-dominated in many organizations, lack understanding of how women feel after they have been sexually harassed (Oswald & Wyatt, 2007). According to Willness (2007), sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination that involves unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It can be further explained as educational discrimination consisting of unwelcomed verbal or physical conduct directed at a student because of her sex. It can be concluded that anyone who deliberately or repeatedly makes unwelcomed verbal comments, gestures or physical contact of a sexual nature is engaging in a sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is described as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conducts of a sexual nature, when submission to or rejection, explicitly or implicitly affects a person’s employment or education, unreasonably interferes with a person’s work or educational performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or learning environment (Omonijo, Uche, Nwadiafor and Rotimi, 2013).
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS, 2013) described the effects of sexual harassment in the following ways:
The victims usually suffer the highest personal costs, although the perpetrators and even observers can also be harmed if harassment is allowed to go uncontrolled. Few people who have not experienced it personally understand the distress and even terror sexual harassment can cause. Most women experience it as an insult, that undermines their self-confidence and thus also their personal effectiveness. It may also undermine their trust in men and in people in authority. In the case of women who were sexually abused as children or as adults, another negative experience can cause serious psychological damage.
The behavior interferes with work or academic performance because it has created an intimidating, hostile or degrading environment and would have such an effect on a reasonable person of the alleged complainant’s status when the conduct is unwelcome and sufficiently severe or pervasive that it deprives that person of benefits of the University’s educational environment. Sexual harassment can occur in a number of ways, such as: the victim as well as the harasser can be any gender; the harasser can be anyone: the victim’s supervisor, a client, a co-worker, a professor, a fellow student, or a stranger; behavior is considered harassing if it interferes with the student’s academic experience; the harasser may be unaware that their behavior is offensive or constitutes sexual harassment, or they may be unaware that their actions could be unlawful. However, the harasser’s intent is irrelevant as to whether the behavior constitutes harassment.
According to Okeke (2011), sexual harassment takes many dimensions. It ranges from sexual comments, jokes, gestures, touch and pinched in a sexual way. In all the cases, girls reported more serious and negative impacts on their school performance than the boys. These impacts included difficulty in concentration, fear, lowered self–esteem and lower grades. She went further to state that sexual harassment has posed a tremendous challenge to African women both in the workplace and educational setting, and this problem has affected their effectiveness in their various academic fields.
In the view of Okeke (2011), female students in Nigerian colleges and universities have unique experiences of sexual harassment from male faculty, staff, and peers. Though sexual harassment is a global concept that affects virtually women of all races, ages, and colours, Nigerian women experience more elusive types of harassment. In other countries or cultures, sexual harassment is a behaviour that is generally unacceptable in any public setting. Nigerian society does not accept the concept of harassment and so does not perceive harassment as evil or a violation of women’s right. Houreld (2006) found that 80% of women in Nigerian higher education institutions reported sexual harassment as their greatest challenge in the successful completion of their academic goals. Adedokun (2004) and Ejiogu and Onyene (2006) found that about 86% of male faculty and staff in the sampled universities in Nigeria have sexually harassed female students at one point in their teaching career.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The rate at which women are sexually harassed in the higher educational institutions in Nigeria has assumed an alarming dimension. The situation is so bad that in Africa as a whole, a vast majority of students have experienced one form of sexual harassment or the other. Sexual harassment has been a challenge in all levels of education and across all academic fields and levels in Africa. Rossetti (2001) indicated that in Botswana 68% of the sexual harassment experienced by girls in the secondary schools happened in their junior years, 18% in senior years and 14% in primary schools years. Finn (2004) found that in a co- education school in Zimbabwe 47% of girls experienced sexual harassment from male teachers and students. Daily Champion (2007) reported that 5.7% of girls in Nigerian primary schools and 20% of girls in secondary schools have experienced sexual harassment. Leach (2003) also found that 27% of girls in junior secondary schools in Ghana have experienced forced sex and over 50% have also been sexually harassed. Human Rights Watch Report (2001) also states that thousands of girls in schools across South Africa encounter sexual violence and harassment.
This situation is even worse in the tertiary level of education, especially in Nigeria. The problem of sexual harassment in Nigeria has received cold reactions from government and school authorities. Human Rights Watch (2001) reported that the government and school authorities in Nigeria were found to be silent about the sexual harassment experienced by female students in the country. As a result of this neglect from the government and school officials many female students have quit schooling and many did not return to school due in part to fear of being harassed again or violated.
Even those who choose to stay in school have continued to live in perpetual fear. Their freewill has been lost to the marauding male folks especially their lecturers. In most cases, female students have to live under the pressure of sleeping with a lecturer or else fail the course. In another case, they are touched in an unsolicited manner in sensitive parts when they are invited to lecturers’ offices. Sexual comments, sexual touches and sexually-motivated gestures (all forms of sexual harassment) made against female undergraduates render them in a state of confusion.
The problem therefore is how these sexual advances the female students experience impact on their academic performance in the University of Calabar. That is why the researcher has decided to undertake this study to investigate the effects of sexual harassment on the academic performance of female undergraduate students of tertiary institution in Nigeria, a study of University of Calabar, which formed the background to the study. The study seeks to answer such questions as why sexual harassment? What is the impact of sexual harassment? How does sexual harassment affect the academic performance of female students? What are the measures to check it? What is the way forward? These serve as the motivation for this study.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The main objective of this study is to investigate the causes of sexual harassment among tertiary institution students in Yabatech College of technology, specifically the study intends to:
1. Find out factors that prompt male to sexually harass of female students
2. Investigate into the causes of sexual harassment among tertiary institution students
3. Find out the effect of sexual harassment on the academic achievement of female students