Women decry sextortion

The Chronicle

Lumbidzani Dima, Chronicle Reporter
WOMEN’S organisations have lamented the rise in sextortion cases in the country’s tertiary institutions and workplaces, pushing back the fight to achieve gender equality.

According to the Collins dictionary, sextortion is the use of intimidation or violence to coerce a person into performing a sexual act, or extortion involving threats to expose a person’s sexual history.

During International Women’s Day commemorations hosted by Transparency International Zimbabwe (ITZ) at a Bulawayo hotel yesterday, women from different advocacy organisations demanded that sextortion be taken as a serious offence.

They said it has emerged as the main obstacle to achieving gender equality, which they have been fighting for since independence in 1980.

Chief prosecutor for Bulawayo superior courts, Ms Rosa Takuva said it takes a person who has been victimised to speak up, otherwise sextortion will never end and called for it to be classified as a serious crime.

“For corruption to take place, two people are involved and when they are doing it, they will not call a meeting to say please come and see us, we are corrupting each other.

They will just do it in private. The problem with sextortion is that it is done undercover and all we have are suspicions that something is fishy. If none of those people are willing to talk, sextortion shall never end, corruption will always be there,” said Ms Takuva.

“Another problem is that if someone (a woman) gets a promotion today, no one will believe it’s their efforts and hard work, but people will assume ‘she slept with the boss’. Women are actually pulling each other down,” she said.

She suggested that there be awareness campaigns to educate women, especially young ladies, to know that they can still get a job and a promotion; they can still pass and obtain degrees without selling themselves to the devil.

Ms Takuva also challenged society to stop assuming that sex is the only leeway to a woman’s success. Proportional representation Member of Parliament for Bulawayo Metropolitan, Ms Jasmine Toffa, said women and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds are the most victims of sextortion, as they struggle to put food on the table.

Ms Prisca Ncube from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said women’s private parts were detached from their bodies when society decided that a virgin bride is worth more in lobola.

She urged women to take pride in themselves and speak up whenever they are subjected to sextortion, be it in the workplace, at home or school.

Ms Eunice Dlamini from M and M Joyous Events appealed to women not to become willing victims of sextortion by resisting and speaking up against it.

“One needs to have dignity; there is nothing like ‘I had no choice’. Take pride in them saying ‘uyisthutha ngoba kadlisi’ (she’s stupid because she doesn’t give sexual favours). If I have nothing let me have nothing. A woman must cleanly achieve. Just take pride and lose the money,” she said.

A young woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said young women and girls are the main victims of sextortion, especially in universities, as they’ll be having no choice in most cases.

“In order for one to get a degree without any struggles, you need to open your legs, and this is a fact that should never be buried.

Most lecturers take advantage of girls, leaving them with no choice because if he says you are never going to pass any of my modules if you do not do this, then I fail the first one after refusing, my next move will be giving in no matter how principled I am,” she said.

“Many women holding degrees and other qualifications out there are just keeping quiet, but they know what they did to get class one degrees. Others were left with Ps yet they were more intelligent because they refused to remove their panties.

“My suggestion is to implement laws that already exist to curb such abuse. It’s the duty of every organisation, especially universities, to tighten rules and make sure that sextortion is considered the most serious offence.

We are dead inside because of this, but because a woman was born to be strong, we are keeping up appearances, otherwise we would be committing suicide,” she said.

She said a woman stuck at the back of beyond and has no other option is not to blame for sextortion. Ms Thubelihle Ncube from TIZ said there are women who believe sleeping with someone to make it in life is just a small price to pay.

“We visited Matabeleland South and had sessions with women whereby we had nice conversations on sextortion and they agreed that sextortion victimises most of them.

One woman changed the whole agenda when she raised a point which many of them ended up agreeing on. She said ‘but has anyone ever realised that at the end of the day it’s really just a small price to pay. I’m already a mother of two or I’m no longer a virgin, so, instead of finding US$500, it’s just a small price to pay’,” she said.

Ms Ncube said there are some girls who willingly give in and even seduce men at the top, and these should not just be considered as victims.

The women concluded that all organisations must come together and find the best solutions for this abhorrent abuse. They said children must be made aware of sextortion at a tender age so that they grow up valuing themselves, and pledged to host sextortion awareness campaigns countrywide to fight the vice.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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