Monday, March 26, 2007

Nigerian teachers pressuring students to sex

Via Salon's Broadsheet, I became aware of this horrifying AP article in Washington Post

Lecturers Prey on Nigerian Women, Girls

When Nigeria's education minister faced an audience of 1,000 schoolchildren, she expected to hear complaints of crowded classrooms and lack of equipment. Instead, girl after girl spoke up about being pressured for sex by teachers in exchange for better grades. One girl was just 11 years old.

"I was shocked," said the minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili, who has several children herself. "I asked _ was it that prevalent? And they all chorused 'yes.'"


How can this go on in such a widespread way without the knowledge of the person in charge of the system? Don't ask me, but at least she is now aware of it, and hopefully will do something about it.


For years, sexual harassment has been rampant in Nigeria's universities, but until recently very little was done about it. From Associated Press interviews with officials and 12 female college students, a pattern emerges of women being held back and denied passing grades for rebuffing teachers' advances, and of being advised by other teachers to give in quietly.


In otehr words, this is systematic. The teachers who give the advice might consider their advice sound, but they are as fucking guilty as the one forcing themselves on the women. They are as much part of the systematic rape and abuse as the one directly perpetrating it. And make no mistake, forcing yourself on someone is rape, no matter if you do it physically or by threatening their future, as in this case.

Stigma prevents many more from speaking out, says Oluyemisi Obilade, a professor who teaches adult education at prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University at Ile Ife in central Nigeria.

Like many Nigerian universities, the seemingly peaceful campus with its flame trees and soaring art deco architecture has witnessed horrifying sexual assaults. After a student was gang-raped nine years ago, Obilade formed WARSHE _ Women Against Rape, Sexual Harassment and Exploitation.

Obilade estimates she has helped hundreds of female students _ and the odd male _ who have been attacked by students or harassed by lecturers. Students have been raped in libraries, reading rooms and their own dorms, she says. When one student needed reconstructive surgery after a particularly brutal attack, Obilade and some colleagues gave their year-end bonuses to help pay for treatment.


Obilade has all my respect for her work, but it shouldn't be necessary. Women should not have to live in fear of getting raped, nor should they have to dismiss the unwanted advantages of their teachers. However, as long as the people mentioned in the next paragraph are in charge, people like Obilade is needed.

"Some lecturers see young girls as fringe benefits," she said, wearing a black T-shirt that says "this is what a feminist looks like." "We've had cases where the girls have complained and the heads of their department have called them and said, 'Give him what he wants.'"


The lecturers can see the young girls as "fringe benefits" exactly because of people like the heads of their departments (who probably agree with those lecturers).

As the rest of the article explains, there are some indications of things getting better, but there is a long way yet. And as Amnesty International reports, rape is endemic in Nigeria in general.

Update: Something I didn't mention before, but which might be worth remembering as well, is that 60% of all new cases of HIV infections in Nigeria happens to people between 15 and 25.

Another thing to remember is that abortion is illegal except for medical reasons, even in the case of rape and incest. (.doc file)

I furious about this story, and there isn't anything we can do other than pressuring our politicans to pressure the politicans in Nigeria to do something about it.

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