The chilling revelation that one in every two female students and one in four male students have been sexually harassed by university staff has spurred a movement to end the scourge.
Sexual harassment includes and is not limited to requests for sexual favors for grades, non-permitted sexual advances, verbal abuse and innuendos.
Students from various Kenyan universities yesterday launched a campaign to tackle such harassment in their campuses.
Dubbed #CampusMeToo and launched at an event held at the University of Nairobi, the campaign is an aftermath of a survey by the UN Women and ActionAid.
Hundreds of students from different universities gathered and have signed a petition to end sexual harrassment in higher learning institutions at the launch of #Campusmetoopic.twitter.com/LbT4SaV5OH
Their report noted first and second-year students, gender non-conformity students and financially vulnerable students were the most affected.
It mentioned that 66 per cent of the cases of sexual harassment came from lecturers. It added that 38 per cent female and 33 per cent male students thought it would be unlikely that the institution will take a report of sexual harassment seriously.
The University of Nairobi said 1,015 students took part in the research. 49 per cent females of the 1,015 had been sexually harassed while 24 per cent of their male counterparts had had a similar experience.
Students who are part of the social justice movement signed a petition to put colleges and university leaders to account. They are demanding that they prioritise policies to ensure protection against sexual violence.
They proposed mandatory induction sessions for newly enrolled students and training sessions for university staff in terms of prescribed sexual harassment policies.
The students further want an investigation committee appointed on all campuses that will handle sexual harassment cases.
The campaigns project coordinator Macrine Ondigo said they will not relent on the push as sexual harassment undermined “human rights and unfairly deprives the youth of Kenya a safe environment in which they can thrive, innovate and contribute positively to their personal and educational development.”
Opinion on who should shoulder the blame is, however, polarised with some proponents says the allure of a quick and good life was making the vice thrive in universities.
They blamed students who gave in to the demands of their abusers for exchange of rewards such as money.
The petition will be submitted to the Ministry of Education, who they want to commit to ensuring higher learning institutions uphold the laws on sexual harassment outlined in the Sexual Offences Act section 23 and 24, on December 10, 2019.
The campaign comes weeks after a BBC documentary titled ‘Sex for Grades’ exposed how lecturers in West African institutions of higher learning preyed on their students.
The exposé caused a stir in the social circles and drew global attention.
Notably, South Africa also launched #AmINext movement, which protested increasing rates of gender-based violence and femicide-gender based violence targeting ladies.
It is as an extension of the worldwide #MeToo Campaign – a movement raising awareness of the prevalence and pernicious impact of sexual violence.