The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Sex for Jobs - Private Sector Main Offenders

Not that this man, whose name cannot be disclosed here, is a very gender sensitive manager working to promote women's rights by according them equal opportunities for employment. He recruits the young women, preferably recent college or university graduates, for his exclusive personal sexual pleasure.

The girls, according to testimonies given to anti-corruption crusaders, Transparency International Rwanda (TI Rwanda), are no better than sex slaves with each assigned a day in a week to provide the services to the boss in exchange for a job and other favours.

This is no isolated case, but just one of the many documented and unreported cases of what is now being termed as sex or gender-based corruption by TI Rwanda.

"Some girls [confessed] to us. Of course they could not tell us the name of the organisation and the boss involved, but that is what they told us," said Francine Umurungi, the in charge of institutional development and advocacy at TI Rwanda.

This and many more cases of demands for sexual favours in exchange for jobs came to the fore after a study done by TI Rwanda between December 2010 and June 2011.

While young women were found to be high on the receiving end, the vice has not spared young men as well, some of whom, have found themselves being preyed on by their elderly female bosses.

"In our study we found very few incidents where men were sexually exploited by their bosses. The few were in informal jobs such as drivers," Umurungi said.

It is not easy to understand why few men are exploited yet many leadership positions in private and public institutions in the country are held by women.

"Perhaps it is because women in leadership positions have a lot of responsibilities compared with their male counterparts - balancing family and work - that they find little time to even think about sex," she said.

Private sector tops:

According to the findings of the study, owners of private companies, where a decision to hire or fire is taken by a sole proprietor, are the main offenders. In here, demands for sexual favours in exchange for a job, promotion or salary increment is the norm rather than the exception. Statistics show that 58.3 per cent of the respondents in private organisations covered by the study said they either knew of colleagues who had been victims or they themselves had given in to the demand for sex in order to secure employment.

Public (government institutions) too have a high prevalence at 51.4 per cent of those interviewed. Civil society organisations, commonly known as non-government organisations, recorded the lowest occurrence at 43 per cent.

What has caused much anxiety among anti-graft crusaders is the revelation that the problem is spreading down to as low as primary schools where "foreign teachers" are reportedly taking advantage of girls. This is not only exposing young girls to early pregnancies, but also disrupting their learning.

"Whatever a girl has done together with her teacher starts replaying back in her mind like a film. Instead of concentrating in class, the mind is busy replaying the film," Umurungi said.

That partly jolted TI Rwanda into action to engage lawmakers with a view to enacting specific and tough legislation to deal with gender-based corruption.

According to Umurungi, before her organisation embarked on the study, there had been many cases of sex-based corruption that kept trickling in on a regular basis. TI Rwanda therefore wanted to establish the magnitude of the problem.

The countrywide survey found out that the problem was prevalent almost everywhere - from offices to construction sites, homes to schools.

"On construction sites if you are a woman you will have to sleep with the supervisor to secure a job and if you are a man, you forfeit one month salary," TI Rwanda says.

New law sought:

While sex-based corruption is punishable under the Penal Code (articles 637 and 638), TI Rwanda says the law is not strong enough to deal with this intricate problem.

"We had cases where a victim presented photographic evidence and the accused came close to admitting, but police would say that kind of evidence is not admissible in courts of law," she said.

As a result of these technicalities in the law, many victims have chosen to suffer quietly because reporting a matter that will not result into reprimand of the offender actually makes the situation even worse. Actually, one may suffer double tragedy - perhaps losing the job.

Now TI Rwanda is engaging parliamentarians to make a new law that will specifically deal with the complex issue and perhaps encourage those suffering quietly to come out and report.

However, while drafting a new law, legislators will have to deal with the fact that sometimes the "victims" are the ones that initiate the deal in order to gain unfair advantage against competitors. TI Rwanda is also aware of this, as the study found out, that some bosses are indeed enticed into the accepting sexual intercourse to influence decisions at the workplace.

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