Sexual Harassment :
Minister says offenders must face severe punishment
*Lauds Women in maritime Journalism for successful outing
By Udeme Clement:
The Minister of State for Transport, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, has said that individuals culpable of rape and other cases of sexual harassment must be severely punished, in order to instill confidence in the victims and deter intending offenders.
The Minister made this known while declaring open a webinar with the theme, ‘Enforcing Policies and Legal Instruments Against Sexual Harassment & Exploitation in the Maritime Industry’, organised by Women in Maritime Journalism, WIMAJ, to commemorate Seafarers’ Day.
The Minister, who was represented by the Deputy Director, Marine Pollution, Federal Ministry of Transport, A. Adaji, called for greater advocacy on issues related to sexual harassment, so as to nip the problem on the bud.
She said, “We all have a role to play. The media should give wide reportage on suggestions made at this webinar.
“All stakeholders in the maritime industry, shipping firms, government agencies, as well as civil society groups must rise up to condemn sexual harassment and speak out accordingly.”.
Speaking further, the Minister commended WIMAJ for the initiative in organising webinar on sexual harassment, describing it as timely and very important, especially with the spate of rape cases in the country.
Also speaking, Mrs Jean Chiazor Anishere, called for more participation of women in the industry.
According to her, male dominance on board a vessel makes female seafarers vulnerable to sexual harassment.
Her words, “Imagine a situation where there are 14 men on board a vessel and just two female seafarers. In such a situation, the female seafarers are completely overwhelmed”.
She informed that the Industrial Court mentioned physical touching, sexual advances, comments, gestures and indecent exposures as parts of sexual harassment, without spelling out specific punishments for offenders.
Responding to question on if monetary compensation could be considered as part of the sanctions for offenders, she emphasised, “We can’t advocate for any monetary compensation due to the severity and criminal nature of the offence. No amount of money can compensate for rape cases”.
In her closing remarks, the Chairperson of WIMAJ, Mrs A. Ezinne, assured that WIMAJ will intensify efforts in advocacy on issues related to sexual harassment and national development.