Friday, April 24, 2015

Blog #10: Tanzanie Cracks Down on 'Sextortion" by Public Officials

After 9 in every 10 women in the public sector were estimated to have been sexually harassed, Tanzania has warned it's public officials that using their positions of power to extort sexual favors from women will no longer be tolerated. The women that make up Tanzania's public sector account for nearly 5 percent of the workforce, so when hundreds of them came forward complaining that they were becoming more and more susceptible to sextortion in the male-dominated system, it was cause for alarm.  A women's based group TAMWA, recently reported that nearly 89 percent of women in the public sector have experienced some form of sexual harassment while seeking a job, promotion or service. The Ethics Secretariat's commissioner, Salome Kaganda, claims that sextortion is the product of an "erosion of morals."  This sex corruption has even been present in the country's universities, as male tutors pressure their female tutees to have sex for good grades, claims student Catherine Olomi.  The university officials, however,claim that there have been no reports of sexual harassment and there are very strict anti-sexual harassment regulations to ensure such measures.

In an effort to alleviate the issue, guidelines were issued this week by the independent Ethics Secretariat. They define sextortion as, "when an official exercises power to sexually exploit someone for a service in his or her authority."  The guidelines establish a system for people to anonymously report sexual abuse to various public offices through letters, emails, or in person, if they so choose.  They also highlight disciplinary measures to be taken against public officials who are convicted of such an abuse of power. These measures include written warnings, demotions, fines or jail.

It was also stated that although 'sextortion' was not recognized in any law, it included two crimes that were - corruption and sexual abuse.  Both crimes are punishable by jail or fines of up to $2,500 (or 5 million Tanzanian shillings.)  There is a need to amend the law, however, because sextortion is difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt, due to the fact  that it takes place in secrecy, and therefore, the anti-corruption law is too weak to have jurisdiction over the larger crime of sexual corruption. By amending the law so that evidence does not include having proof beyond reasonable doubt, this will give justice to many sextortion victims.

I feel that this is, yet again, the result of a male-dominated, patriarchal society.  These women are tyring to better themselves, and improve their lives, but in order to do so they have to make their way through the hierarchy of men that rules over them.  By having to ask the men for permission, or by going through them to find a job, these women must fall to the 'terms and conditions' that their male superiors lay out for them.  By empowering women to have the ability to act separately, or without the permission of their male counterparts, the sextortion rate could decline greatly.  The guidelines discussed above are a step in the right direction, and some corrective measures are better than none, but as the claims of the university played out, I feel that will continue for the rest of the public sector as well; these guidelines will be in place, but the sexual harassment will continue 'behind the scenes' and unreported, because these women need to make a place for themselves in society.

Megan Wrench

No comments: