The Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, on Thursday urged victims of sexual harassment and exploitation to speak out as silence is no longer an option if they want to get justice.
Saraki gave the advice at a webinar on: “Enforcing Policies and Legal Instruments Against Sexual Harassment and Exploitation in the Maritime Industry organised by Women in Maritime Journalism (WIMAJ) to commemorate the 2020 Day of the Seafarers.
The Honourable Minister who was represented by Asmau Adaji, Deputy Director, Marine Pollution, Federal Ministry of Transportation, said the fight against female sexual harassment requires the effective collaboration of all stakeholders.
She said such stakeholders, who include government, shipping companies, media, civil society and victims, who must be courageous to speak up.
The minister said organisations and individuals must shun the culture of silence.
She said: “Human dignity must be respected at all times and places, there should be increased protection of women’s rights under the law.
“The Federal Ministry of Transportation, with the assistance of maritime agencies, is committed to formulating policies in line with our subsisting law to address this sad phenomenon, which erodes human dignity and inhibits the womenfolk from pursuing careers and exploring their potential in the maritime sector.”
Saraki said experience had shown that female sexual harassment in the maritime industry remained largely unreported due to fear of stigmatisation and victimisation.
According to her, shipping companies have a role to play in addressing this inhuman practice by publicising the reporting procedures and ensuring the victim’s confidentiality.
She said they must show the commitment to deal with such incidents so as to instil confidence in the victims and deter intending offenders.
Also, Margret Orakwusi, Chairperson, Shipowners Forum, Nigeria, said there was the need to look inward on how women raise the men in their household.
According to her, the preferential treatment given to men, raising men to see the female body as an entitlement is not good at all.
Orakwusi said there is the need to raise men that would appreciate the fundamental rights of a woman.
Orakwusi said there is the need to encourage people to speak out as the culture of silence is motivating some men to continue with the bad act.
In her contribution, Koni Duniya, ex-seafarer and Voyage Management Advisor, Nigerian LNG, attributed silence by rape victims to the fear of victimisation, shame or isolation on board.
She said some could even be afraid of being killed and thrown overboard.
Duniya said cases were also unreported because in terms of evidence collecting, it was almost a lost battle.
She said it is okay to have laws in place, but it was better that the act should not happen at all, advocating zero tolerance to sexual harassment.
Jean Chiazo-Anishere, a lawyer and President, African Women in Maritime (WIMAfrica), said to curb the menace, there is need to report incidences so as to bring the perpetrators to book, hence the need to speak out.
Chiazo-Anishere urged all women seafarers to ensure that the protection of their bodies and personalities were accommodated in the policy of the companies they wanted to work with.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that WIMAJ is a not for profit body for practising female media professionals in the maritime industry established in 2019 for education, empowerment and impact.