Worldwide efforts have recognized that the key to sustainability of development efforts lie in the elimination of gender discrimination and in the empowerment of women for the improvement of livelihoods. Africa has recognized that ending corruption through combating illicit financial flows and vouching for tax justice is at the epitome of resuscitation of its prosperity. Both the 2030 Agenda on the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union 2063 Agenda place gender equality as one of the key values of global and regional development goals. However, on an unfortunate note, efforts at a regional, national and local level often neglect an angle of corruption that emancipates the feminization of poverty and reverses the gains development efforts and the feminist movement; this form of corruption has been termed sextortion.
It comes as a reminder that women have been suppressed and denied access to opportunities for development, and though efforts have elevated them their chances of growth within the particular spaces are still determined by social values. Women have worn the shame that comes with sextortion like a comfy old sweater and shouldered the blame involuntarily as most use their sexuality to gain favors in their workplaces and in their engagements with service providers. Women carry the gender role of caring and providing for the immediate needs of their families, they are usually in direct contact with service providers of which men hold the offices that determine whether their families are fed and are healthy.
Out of workspaces mothers do a lot of favors to gain access to services that are human rights. In workspaces, when the guys take their bosses out for drinks to get food on the table women accept ciders and nights in hotel rooms because they do not have resources to be corrupt using other means. More than anything else this affects women the most and their dignity is compromised. They are disempowered socioeconomically and they do not get the chance to live up to their abilities. Even those who climb the ladder honestly are placed under the same umbrella with those who aid sextortion by taking advantage of it.
Without playing the blame game there is need to revisit root causes of such social ills, poverty is a human rights abuse that is capable of pushing people to make compromising involuntary decisions. Corruption is as they term it is a cancer that is still growing in African communities, it has become a second nature to young people who have grown and developed their livelihoods around it. Networking, social capital and many other growth strategies have been informed by corrupt tendencies that have become normal practices. Carpet interviews though condemned are still the order of the day and flirting for favors in all aspects of life continues to haunt women’s empowerment. Young women in tertiary institutions are forced to have sex or grades, female journalists offer sex for their lives to be easier in the newsroom that should be gender friendly in normal circumstances, female political and civil society activists are silenced by powerful individuals through sex, and the list is endless.
This is a difficult form of corruption to combat since coming out in the public with such issues means destroying careers and families of the victims as they are considered consenting adults, yet no attention is paid to the push factors and immediate circumstances. It is recommended that people should start paying more attention to the plight of women and create a level playing field for the sake of sustainability of development efforts.
Thando Gwinji (Qhawekazi)