Wednesday 11 January 2023

'Rape for Grades'

Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels

by Grace Anaja

Rape for grades is a well-known phenomenon. It involves dangling academic grades in exchange for sexual favors.  Even if one party – in this case, the students – consents to trade sexual favors for improved grades, the power dynamics between the school’s employee and the student means that one cannot consent without the niggling fear that their refusal may mean failure. Thus, it is considered rape.

This is a condemnable act prevalent in many universities in Nigeria – public and private alike – and worldwide. It seems to happen more in public universities, I believe, because certain lecturers feel they are doing you a favor by teaching you, and as such, you should give them something in return: money, gifts, or worse, sex. Some ask subtly with the guise of offering help, friendship, or extra support. Others demand it and expect no questions asked.

A study by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reveals this form of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against female students could result in outcomes ranging from shame, loss of self-esteem, unwanted pregnancies, poor academic performance, and in some extreme cases, suicide. Since there is a lack of trust in the system, sexual harassment and rape cases in universities are not reported because victims are not believed. They fear negative consequences even from other lecturers or perpetrators who are not sanctioned.

This begs the question: why do these lecturers demand sex from female students? It is safe to say that some of these men are married and have children, some of whom are peers of the female students they prey on. Why is it important for them to abuse the power they are given? I wonder… if their daughters came home with stories of being raped by a lecturer for grades, what would their response be?

One very flimsy excuse given as a cause is that some female students dress ‘indecently’ on the campus and that men already struggle to control their sexual urges and so might not be able to resist going after these girls. Many tertiary institutions have dress codes that students abide by. Often male and female students are inspected at the gates and halls of residence for ‘improper’ dressing. Whether a student was wearing the long flowing abaya or a strapless cropped top and mini skirt, it does not give any man, staff, or student alike the right to harass or assault her. 

The problem is not with female students – what they wear, do, or say. The problem lies with perpetrators of sexual abuse, these male lecturers. After all, not all lecturers do it. So how do some uphold the ethics of their profession, and others disregard them?

Another excuse is that female students who do not study hard become vulnerable to these lecturers. Doing well in assignments, tests, and exams and attending classes reduces one's chances of being harassed. Yet, there are many cases of lecturers intimidating the ‘most intelligent’ female students. These randy men see these students as sex objects, nothing more.

It is no wonder the release of the BBC Africa Eye documentary Sex for Grades in 2019 sparked a lot of response, protest, and action. Reporter Kiki Mordi and other journalists went undercover as students in Nigerian and Ghanaian universities to reveal the rate of sexual harassment by lecturers. Through their secret recordings over three months, they exposed professors and senior lecturers and caught them on camera grooming and seducing female students. Although it inspired national action by the Nigerian senate as it reintroduced legislation that would criminalize sexual advances by lecturers toward students and mandatory jail time for lecturers found guilty of sexual harassment, rape for grades is still on the rise in many universities.

There are also cases of students deliberately setting up lecturers. I remember a life experience one of my lecturers told us that happened at a private university. Some students felt a particular male lecturer was too ‘wicked’ and harsh and decided to teach him a lesson as a class. Their plan involved having one of their mates, a lady, enter his office when no one was around, scream, and pretend to have been assaulted by him, with incriminating evidence alongside. Sadly, the plan worked, and the lecturer was reprimanded. When the truth came out, his reputation and career were destroyed. It was too late.

As I remember this story, Kunle Afolayan’s Citation comes to mind, especially in the beginning part of the film, where a lecturer was set up by some students, and in the process of being exposed, he was killed and hit by an oncoming vehicle. 

However, this does not rule out the existence of willful sexual relationships between students and lecturers. There have been cases where lecturers married their students. But this is not what I am making reference to. I'm referring to female students offering sex willfully to male lecturers for grades and, interestingly, other things. Of course, some reject these advances, and others why universities should implement more policies to take advantage of them. 

Again, the problem is not with the profession but with the individual. As such, more policies should be implemented by universities to curb this global issue. Defaulting lecturers should be seen and severely dealt with as any other sex offender. No lecturer should be a ‘god’ in the institution. More safe spaces should be created for students and lecturers to report such incidents. Any form of harassment should be treated as what it is, an unlawful act. 

Universities are institutions of learning and development and, therefore, should remain so.

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