Sextortion: Why it’s underreported

09Dec 2018
Guardian On Sunday
Sextortion: Why it’s underreported
  • Sexual harassment against women is a global problem; it is not unique to Tanzania. Activists share their experiences and concerns during the ongoing 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign

SEXUAL harassment is a malignant cancer existing at all levels of schooling in the country, from primary to university education, and the victims are mostly female students and teachers.

Students, mainly girls, often face various forms of sexual harassment including sexual corruption or ‘sextortion.’

This was disclosed on Wednesday in Dar es Salaam during an event organised by TGNP Mtandao, being part of functions lined up to mark 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a campaign that kicked off last month.

According to reports, 75 to 89 per cent of women in the country have already experienced some form of sexual harassment and assault at the work place, particularly when seeking for jobs.

The reports say that in most nations, both developed and developing, women are daily subjected to various forms of sexual assault.

An official from the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), Tulibako Minga, points out that the PCCB Act  No. 11 of  2007 prohibits sexual harassment and sextortion, meaning it is a criminal offence.

The Act  says that sexual  advances by  word  or action used by a person in authority at the workplace  or   any   other   place   shall   constitute   the offence  of sexual harassment, which attracts on conviction imprisonment for   a   term   not exceeding  five  years,  or  to  a  fine  not  exceeding Sh300,000 or  to  both  fine and imprisonment.

However, despite sextortion being common, Miga says it has not been confined to the education system, as it has been noticed in many organizations with a good number of incidents going unrecorded or unreported.

She said such incidents also do not reach the  legal  system  due  to  a  number  of reasons, including the culture  of  secrecy,  parenting and bribing the parents or guardians of the victims and legal practitioners.

“There are very few reports on sexual corruption compared to other kinds of corruption,” she said.

“We have the responsibility to speak openly about this problem from the family level. And the most affected is the education sector. Let’s come out and speak openly to fight this vice,” she said.

The official urged the public to report to PCCB any incident relating to sexual corruption, saying currently there was an ongoing education awareness campaign on how to fight corruption in the country.

For her part, chairperson of a women’s section in the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA) Rehema Ludanga said usually girls and women seeking employment have found themselves prey to the vice in exchange for employment.

“This has been a major challenge to many women seeking jobs, but they never share the secret or the torment with anyone,” she remarked.

She commended the government for ratifying various international conventions regarding people’s rights including The Beijing   Declaration   and   Platform; the Africa Charter   of   Human   Rights and the African Protocol on the Rights of Women and Children.

She however pointed out that despite the laws, sexual corruption and sexual harassment are still pervasive in all sectors of the economy, calling on the government to revisit the laws with a view to making them more stringent.

“The increase  in sextortion  incidents in schools,  colleges  and  universities  has sparked public  debate on  the  moral  standing  of  teachers,” she said.

Neema Shirunga, a former factory employee, said she experienced sexual harassment when seeking employment at her workplace.

“The authorities, especially the PCCB, need to make regular visits to workplaces and listen to female workers’ ordeal, particularly those of part-time workers,” she urhed.

Rachel Bugingo from the Centre for Zero Violence said to end gender violence in society everyone needs to be responsible to act against sexual harassment.

According to Grace Mgumba, a student at St John University, there is a need to include sexual violence as a subject from lower classes to rescue the coming generation from the predicament.

Sextortion is a term coined to combine sex and extortion   in   explaining   sexual   abuse   and exploitation. It is  a  form  of  sexual  exploitation that  employs a non-physical  form  of  coercion  to get a sexual favour from an individual who is the victim.

For sextortion to happen, the perpetrator   of   the  act   must   be   a   person   in authority who takes advantage  of  their office  to win love  from  the  victim  for  the sake  of   employment,  promotion, good  grades  in examination or  any  other service.