Very many people commit heinous offences without knowing the implications of their actions. For instance, can we imagine how many men would have been sanctioned in the society for engaging in polygamy, defined elsewhere as adultery? Several people would have been convicted for various offences due to ignorance. But the position of the Law is that ignorance is no excuse. Laws vary from one country to another. What constitutes an offence in one nation may be unknown to Laws of another country. Accordingly, we shall treat matters pertaining to individual and collective rights, the structure of Nigeria, and the special essence of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in chapter II of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) regarding the obligations of government and the governed.
The laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria consist of courts, offences, and various types of laws. Nigeria has its extant constitution that was established on 29 May 1999. The Constitution of Nigeria is the supreme law of the country. There are four distinct legal systems in Nigeria, which include English law, Common law Customary law, and Sharia (Islamic) Law. Professor Wade describes the rule of law as every act of governmental power that affects the legal rights, duties and liberties of any person, must be shown to have a strictly legal recourse. He added that: When citizens feel aggrieved either with the government, a corporate entity or an individual, they must be able to seek redress in court or in any other lawful manner. Justice does not excuse anyone. Professor A. V. Dicey wrote that the rule of law excludes arbitrariness. Arbitrariness on the part of anyone leads to strife and social dislocation. A harmonious society presents a cordial environment for mans existence on earth. Conversely, when a citizen or resident of Nigeria breaks any law, that person must face the consequences, no matter the status, since the law is no respecter of persons.
It is possible that you might be committing an offence ignorantly. But in Law does not permit for plea of ignorance. Once you run afoul of the law in societies that observe the Rule of Law, you would be answerable for charges that are stipulated in the penal code. Let us now take a universal look at the subject of today SEXUAL HARASSMENT one of the most common vices from a global perspective. United Nations Regulation ST/SGB/2008/5 adopted by the UN Secretariat on 11 February 2008 conveyed by the UN Secretary-Generals bulletin on: Prohibition of Discrimination, Harassment, Including Sexual Harassment, and Abuse of Authority states that:
The Secretary-General, for the purpose of ensuring that all staff members of the Secretariat are treated with dignity and respect and are aware of their role and responsibilities in maintaining a workplace free of any form of discrimination, harassment, including sexual harassment, and abuse of authority, promulgates the following:
Section 1: Definitions
1.1Discrimination is any unfair treatment or arbitrary distinction based on a persons race, sex, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, age, language, social origin or other status. Discrimination may be an isolated event affecting one person or a group of persons similarly situated, or may manifest itself through harassment or abuse of authority.
1.2. Harassment is any improper and unwelcome conduct that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another person. Harassment may take the form of words, gestures or actions which tend to annoy, alarm, abuse, demean, intimidate, belittle, humiliate or embarrass another or which create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Harassment normally implies a series of incidents. Disagreement on work performance or on other work-related issues is normally not considered harassment and is not dealt with under the provisions of this policy but in the context of performance management.
1.3 Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favour, verbal or physical conduct or gesture of a sexual nature, or any other behaviour of a sexual nature that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another, when such conduct interferes with work, is made a condition of employment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. While typically involving a pattern of behaviour, it can take the form of a single incident. Sexual harassment may occur between persons of the opposite or same sex. Both males and females can be either the victims or the offenders.
Section 224 of the Criminal Code Act Laws of the Federation 2004 (offences against morality) provides that: any person who
1) By threats or intimidation of any kind procures a woman or girl to have unlawful carnal connection with a man, either in Nigeria or elsewhere; or
2) By any false pretence procures a woman or girl to have unlawful carnal connection with a man either in Nigeria or elsewhere; or
3) Administer to a woman or girl, or causes a woman or girl to take, any drug or other thing with intent to stupefy or overpower her in order to enable any man, whether a particular man or not, to have unlawful carnal knowledge of her; is guilty of a misdemeanor, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.
CRIMINAL LAW OF LAGOS STATE 2011 AS AN EXAMPLE
S.257 (b) states that any person who knowingly sends, or attempts to send, by post anything which encloses an indecent or obscene print, painting, photograph, lithograph, engraving, book, card, or article, which has on it, or in it, or on its cover, any indecent, obscene, or grossly offensive words, marks, or designs, is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for one (1) year.
Chapter 25 which provides for Sexual Offences states that:
(1) Any person who sexually harasses another is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three (3) years.
(2) Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favours, and other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which when submitted to or rejected
(a) Implicitly or explicitly affects a persons employment or educational opportunity or unreasonable interferes with the persons work or educational performance
(b) Implicitly or explicitly suggests that submission to or rejection of the conduct will be a factor in academic or employment decisions or
(c) Creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive learning or working environment
Facts About Sexual Harassment
It has been established that sexual harassment is illegal. How do you know if you are crossing the thin and usually opaque border line? Laws promulgated against sexual harassment generally do not prohibit minor isolated incidents that are done with civility. In the workplace, harassment may be considered illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim’s demotion, firing or quitting). The legal and social understanding of sexual harassment, however, varies by culture.
In India, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 Act identifies sexual harassment as a violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and to live with dignity under article 21 of the Constitution; as well as the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment. The Act also states that the protection against sexual harassment and the right to work with dignity are universally recognized human rights by international conventions and instruments such as Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW. The Act also stipulates that disrobing a woman without consent is an offence punishable by three years imprisonment.
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in its publication states that: harassment can include sexual harassment or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a persons sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general. Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex. .Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:
The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.
COMMENTS & SUGGESTIONS
We now throw this subject under reference to the populace to their comments and suggestions:
Who is to blame for acts of sexual harassment in modern times?
How should both men and women avoid sexual harassment and the attendant penalties?
Could women wearing provocative dresses be at fault?
Could women equally be guilty of sexual harassment in our clime?
The ball is in your court, our loyal readers and friends.