Impact of sexual harassment on the academic performance of the university students (A case study of uniport students)

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This research investigates the occurrence of sexual harassment and it’s psychological implication among female students of one of the higher institutions in Rivers State, Nigeria. Poverty and negative peer influence are also key drivers of sexual harassment in higher educational institutions. Fear and trauma were rated highest as the psychological consequences of sexual harassment on the victims. This phenomenon has grave implication both for the individuals, higher education institutions and the labour market in Nigeria. Hence the need to develop sustainable systems and structures for redress through development of anti-sexual harassment policies, well-equipped security unit, establishment of telephone hotlines and well trained school counselors to effectively handle cases of sexual harassment and secure justice for the victims.









  • Background of the study

Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favour and other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature. It is a silent disease that is seriously eroding academic excellence in our tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

It identifies the various behaviours that may constitute sexual harassment in a work environment. The first two provisions deal with unequal power relations between the employer/supervisor and employee/subordinate. An employer or a supervisor demands sexual gratification from the employee or subordinate in return for job benefits. In the academic environment, a parallel situation could be argued to arise when faculty propose to female students for sexual favours, in return for favourable examination results. The third provision refers to the existence of a hostile work environment, where the offending behaviour interferes with the satisfactory work performance of an employee. Fitzgerald, Gelfand and Drasgow (1995) further extended this definition by adding three empirically derived situations: unwanted sexual attention such as touching, hugging, stroking and demanding a date; sexual coercion, which relates to sexual advances with the promise of job-related benefits; and gender harassment which refers to those verbal and non-verbal behaviours (such as jokes, taunts, gestures, and exhibition of pornographic materials). Tertiary institutions in Nigeria have been bedevilled with obscene dressing, secret cult activities and drug abuse to mention a few. Most of the female students almost go naked, display their navels and boobs and wearing what are just ample cleavages on display depicting size and shape of the private parts with minis that barely cover their bottom. These are weapons of mass distraction and sexual harassment. Some of the students are so morally bankrupt that they rely absolutely on their womanhood to ‘pass’ their examinations. They seduce fellow male students or examiners to assist them write their examinations or award them pass marks as the case may be. The general increase in the social vices in Nigerian tertiary institutions might be responsible for the general decline in the quality of graduates being turned out by Nigeria’s tertiary institutions. An evaluation of the quality of graduates from Nigerian tertiary institutions based mainly on a series of questions put to major employers of Nigerian graduates as a way of assessing graduates’ level of preparation and performance on the job; the result showed that the quality of the graduates is deteriorating (The Scholar, 2001). There is also a general perception that sexual harassment is prevalent in most or all university campuses in Nigeria and that the phenomenon had been on the increase in the last 10 years (Ladebo, 2001). Sexual harassment is an all too familiar part of the everyday experience in tertiary institutions and it is characterized as one of the most omnipresent and rampant form of gender-based violence which many ladies face daily . Sexual harassment is complex, not always unidirectional, played down by all concerned, unreported and considered a serious moral and social problem in tertiary institutions. It may take several forms: male lecturers to female students, male students to female students, male lecturers to female lecturers and nonacademic staff and so on. Female students are in most cases at great risk, while the male academic staff is likely to be the perpetuators of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions. This trend is amazing and disturbing in an environment that is often believed to be a centre of excellence, be a moulding and filtering ground for building virile leaders and intellectuals that will mount the stage of leadership of the country tomorrow. Sexual coercive activities are unwanted sexual touch such as slapping the buttocks of the opposite sex, touching the breast, scratching or parting an opposite sex’s back, grabbing of their waists. Sexual coercive activities also include being tricked into having sex, attempted rape, and actual rape, fondling of opposite sex’s partners sexual organs, unwanted sexual jokes, comments, talks and gestures. Also included are noncontact abuse and other sexual acts such as molestation, harassment, forced viewing of pornography, repeated request for dates, threatening text messages, arousal gesture, indecent exposure. Other forms are intimidation and verbal pressure. According to Omoteso (2006), sexual coercion can be categorized into different ways that by reference to the situation in which it occurs by the identity or characteristics of the perpetrators. These categories are referred to as types of sexual coercion such as date acquaintance sexual coercion, marital or spousal sexual coercion, gang sexual coercion, sexual coercion of children, statutory sexual coercion, prison sexual coercion, war and transactional sexual coercion. Sexual coercion of females is not a recent development, some of the evidences were revealed. A foremost expression of this was the biblical account. In a study conducted among University students in Ibadan by Ajuwon, Olaleye, Faromoju, Ladipo and Akin-Jimoh, (2001a) on the sexual coercion of University students, 15% of the students reported forced sexual penetration, 27% reported attempts at forced sex and 44% reported the experience of unwanted sexual activities , the reports shows the enormity of sexual coercion among females in the universities. These revelation shows that females are the victims of sexual coercion and leave them with serious traumatic experience such as health, emotional, psychological and social consequence (Heise, Moore and Tobia). It could damage the emotional and academic well-being of students, provoke damage student’s reputation and exacerbate conflicts among students which could contribute to a hostile learning environment. Bandura (2005) opined that both young and old female students could be sexually coerced due to some characters that are common with female university student generally such as indecent dressing, how they engage in friendly gestures like parting others buttock, pecking of cheeks, embracing each other and other sexual acts. Fergusson, Horwood and Lynskey (2007) observed that coercers are within the same age range with the victim, he however stressed that there are some cases of older males who indulge in sexual coercion of younger females. Humper (2008) asserts that young female students in their teens and early twenties are highly overrepresented among sexual coercion victims around the word and they are target for older males especially those in intimate relationship, they usually obtain sex through force and deception. Others in this category are their boyfriends, co-students, lecturers, administrative officers, cultists and men in authority who are found of forcing young female students into unwanted sexual encounters as found by the researcher. Omorodion and Olusanya (2008) reported that in their study carried out on violence against females that young females are mostly victims of sexual coercion around the world and that certain forms of sexual coercion are very closely associated with younger females trafficking and exploitation which are also forms of sexual coercion. Watts (2008) opined that older females are always cautious of their relationship with the opposite sex and thus experience less sexual victimization from men. As observed, males are physically stronger than the females in terms of physical strength and power. Females at this age range may lack the power to respond forcefully to prevent violence situations which usually resulted to sexual coercion. Fawole, Osungbade and Faweya (2008) opined that violence asserts power; he affirmed that the use of physical force by males after other actions gives male the advantage to sexually coerce younger female students. Females due to their inherent nature to be passive, submissive and tender as a result of gender inequality usually caused male to believe that females could be controlled and traumatized by dominating them using sex. Researchers, such as Omorodion and Olusanya (2008) found in their study on violence against females that most of the younger females usually find it difficult to be firm in their decision about sexual matters which usually lured them to the risk of sexual coercion. Although Akinlolu (2009) have shown that University females that are sexually coerced fall largely into those who are unmarried than married, the unmarried are not tagged and therefore they are free to exhibit any kind of sexual behavior with anyone. Osakinle (2003) indicated in her study that a significant difference exists in sexual coercion of married and unmarried female students, the fact that a female student is unmarried makes the males relate freely with her than married female student, this usually predispose unmarried female students to be more exposed to sexual coercion than the married female students. Akinlolu (2009) noticed that some female students that have had boyfriends in the University and later got married to another man while still in the same University may experience one form of sexual coercion or the other from the former boyfriends. Lavinger (2008) reported that single female University students are likely to experience partner’s violence more than married females from an intimate relationship. Unmarried female students that experience sexual coercion may have fewer options than married female students because married female students will enjoy marital legal protection more than the unmarried. In Nigerian culture, wives are jealously guided, the husband of the women that is sexually coerced could take the case of the coercion up legally and such action could cause the coercer to lose his job if he is a worker. If the coercer is a student, he may be expelled out of the school. It was concluded that any female could be sexually coerced irrespective of their marital status, base on the attitudes that are peculiar with university female students.



  • Statement of the problem

Female students in Nigeria colleges and universities have unique experiences of sexual harassment from male faculty, staff and peers. Though sexual harassment is a global concept that affects virtually women of all races, ages and colors Nigerian women experience more elusive types of harassment. Nigerian society does not accept the concept of harassment and so does not perceive harassment as evil or a violation of women’s right. In Rivers State for instance, sexual harassment was indirectly legitimized by teaching and nonteaching staff. The practice was described and popularly called “sorting” where students (males and females) pay their way through examinations either with cash, gifts or sexual gratifications. In this practice, male students were asked to pay money but sexual gratification was the top expectation for women students. These faculty and staff proudly call this practice “inconveniency allowance”. As a result, students fondly divide faculty into “sortable” (those who make demands for gratification) and “unsortable” (those who do not). Consequently, women students in Nigeria colleges and universities are raising concerns over the alarming incidents of sexual harassment on campus by male faculty, staff and students.


  • Objectives of the study

The main objective of the study is to ascertain the impact of sexual harassment on the academic performance of the university students. However for the successful completion of the study, the following sub objectives were put forward by the researcher:

(i)To determine the nature and trend of sexual harassment among students in higher institutions in Nigeria.

(ii) To ascertain the causes of sexual harassment as perceived by students in higher institutions in Nigeria.

(iii) To examine the psychological consequences of sexual harassment on the victims.

(iv) To recommend possible institutional response to control occurrence of sexual harassment in higher institutions in Nigeria.


1.4  Research question

For the successful completion of the study, the following research questions were formulated:

(i)How can the nature and trend of sexual harassment among students in higher institutions in Nigeria be determined?

(ii)What are the causes of sexual harassment as perceived by students in higher institutions in Nigeria?

(iii)How can the physiological consequences of sexual harassment on the victims be examined?

(iv)What are the ways in which possible institutional response to control the occurrence of sexual harassment in higher institutions in Nigeria?


1.5 Significance of the study

It is conceived that at the completion of the study, the findings will be of great benefit to the youths that are being exposed to the dangers of the impact of sexual harassment on their academic performance; the study will also be of great benefit to the users of the social media on delivering adequate information to the international scene.

It is conceived that the study will also be of great importance to researcher who are in need of information on similar field. Finally, the study will also be of great importance to lecturers, teacher’s students and the general public.




1.6 Scope and limitation of the study

The scope of the study is the impact of sexual harassment on the academic performance of the university students in Rivers State. However, the study has some constrained and limitations which are:

  • Availability of research material: The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study.
  • Time: The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.
  • Finance: The finance available for the research work does not allow for wider coverage as resources are very limited as the researcher has other academic bills to cover.


1.7  Definition of terms


The action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another


Sexual harassment

It involves the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks (typically of a woman) in a workplace or other professional or social situation.

Academic performance

Academic performance is the outcome of education, the extent to which a student, teacher or institution has achieved their educational goals.


A high-level educational institution in which students study for degrees and academic research is done.


A person who is studying at a university or other place of higher education.





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Impact of sexual harassment on the academic performance of the university students (A case study of uniport students)


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