Sexual Harassment At Workplace And What The Law Says About It
Harassment affects the performance of workers in an organisation and also hampers productivity.
Working in Nigeria and having to deal with harassment evolving from the workplace can make life at work a miserable and frustrating experience.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No.190, violence and harassment is identified as violations directed at persons because of their sex or gender, or affecting persons of a particular sex or gender disproportionately.
The C190 is the first international treaty to recognise the right of everyone to a world of work that is free from violence and harassment. It also includes gender-based violence and harassment.
In Nigeria, some bosses take advantage of the fact that Nigeria has no specific law on workplace harassment to physically and mentally harass their workers.
Though there is no specific law on workplace harassment in Nigeria, some laws have general provisions on harassment done in any place.
Most organisations capture workplace harassment under the code of ethics of the organisation. Harassment by bosses affects the performance of workers in an organisation and also hampers productivity.
Laws that speak on harassment in Nigeria
Some of the laws in Nigeria that speak on harassment includes: Section 34 of the Constitution, The Penal code ( Section 281, 282 and 285), Criminal code( Section 351, 352 & 360) and VAPP Act ( 46, 47) and the Lagos State Prohibition Against Domestic Violence Law 2007.
- Section 34 of the 1999 constitution provides that “every Nigerian individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly (a) No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment b) no person shall be held in slavery or servitude; and (c) no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”
- Section 351 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act provides for Punishment of assault. It states that “Any person who unlawfully assaults another is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable, if no greater
punishment is provided, to imprisonment for one year.
- Section 352 of the Same Act provides for Assault with intent to commit unnatural offence. It states that “Any person who assaults another with intent to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.
- While Section 360 of the same Act provides for Indecent assaults on females, Section 353 provides for Indecent assaults on males.
- Section 360 “Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults a woman or girl is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.”
- Section 353 “Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults any male person is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years. The offender cannot be arrested without a warrant.
Section 281 of the penal code states that “Whoever, in order to gratify the passions of another person, procures, entices, or leads away, even with her consent, a woman or girl for immoral purposes shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.”
Section 285 states that “Whoever commits an act of gross indecency upon the person of another without his consent or by the use of force or threats compels a person to join with him in the commission of that act, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine. Provided that a consent given by a person below the age of sixteen years to such an act when done by his teacher, guardian or a person entrusted with his care or education shall not be deemed to be a consent within the meaning of this section.”
Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011
- Section 264: (1) Any person who sexually harasses another commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for three (3) years.
- The Criminal Law of Lagos State which prohibits harassment defines harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other visual, verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature. Which when submitted to or rejected ; (c) creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning or working environment.
The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, 2015 (VAPP Act)
- Section 46 of the act describes Sexual harassment as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or other conduct based on sex or gender which is persistent, serious and demeans, humiliates or creates a hostile or intimidating environment and this may include physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct.”
Mohammed Yahaya, An Abuja based lawyer who spoke with Nairametrics said, “What is required of an employee when harassed by a boss is to report to the HR or Ethics committee in the organisation or to the management, where there is no HR or Ethics committee in place”
When asked how an employee who has been harassed can seek redress, Mr Yahaya said, “Where the organisation does not have stringent or punitive measures on issues of harassment in the workplace, the victim shall report to the police.”
He further said “the Police or the organisation will be the one to take the matter to court on behalf of the victim as it is a criminal offence.
What you should know
- Some states like Lagos and Ekiti have implemented state laws regulating harassment and gender-based violence.
- For Lagos, it is the Lagos State Prohibition Against Domestic Violence Law 2007, while for Ekiti, it is the Ekiti State Gender-Based Violence (Prohibition) Law 2019.
- The National Industrial Court has exclusive jurisdiction in matters relating to or connected with any labour, employment, trade unions, industrial relations and matters arising from the workplace.
- Order 14 of the National Industrial Court Civil Procedure Rules 2017 provides for sexual harassment, it also states different kinds of acts and circumstances that can constitute sexual harassment in the workplace.
- It also recognises that sexual harassment is an offence for which a person can bring a claim to the court.