Avoid ambiguity in definition of sex-based corruption

Editor,There is no doubt that abusing power to seek sexual gratification from subordinates or those in supplicant positions is immoral and should also be punishable by law.

Editor,

There is no doubt that abusing power to seek sexual gratification from subordinates or those in supplicant positions is immoral and should also be punishable by law.

It is inherently immoral because a supervisor, a teacher, a mentor, an employer or any other authority figure should understand that any “yes” to their sexual advances from those in subservient positions may be solely attributable to for fear of the consequences from a rejected predator.

As such, it is impossible to know whether submission to such demands is not coerced and therefore morally reprehensible. It is also illegal in many jurisdictions because extorting sexual favours through the use of threats (tacit or implied), or through the use of promises of favours (also tacit or implied), or sexual relationships between superiors and subordinates (especially in an educational context) are considered inconsistent with public policy and, therefore, proscribed.

The article 637 (I assume of the Rwandan criminal code) punishes such behaviour, but that it is as rampant as Transparency International Rwanda seems to be telling us, then either the law is difficult to apply and needs to be reviewed, or its enforcement is lax and that too needs to be looked at with a view to tightening it up and exploring ways in which its enforcement can be made more effective.

I nevertheless think we need to be mindful of a few things. We should be careful to avoid conflating sex-based violence (usually physical) and sex-based corruption as it appears the workshop at Parliament did.

Both are certainly bad but they are not the same thing and confusing them will make it all the harder for effective responses to be formulated and implemented.

In all cases, the hierarchically superior person in an irregular workplace sexual relationship or even mere encounter should be understood to be in the wrong. This is to make teachers, employers-whether in wage employment or domestic work, teachers or preachers understand that the default position of both society at large and the law is that sexual contacts (long-term relationships or even one-off encounters) with people in subordinate relationships as immoral and legally proscribed.

The problem, of course, is that such sweeping criminalisation will be considered as unreasonable and be impossible to police. We would need more Morality Police to enforce such prudery than we can afford to employ.

Mwene Kalinda, Kigali, Rwanda

Reaction to the story, “Transparency Rwanda wants sex based corruption criminalised”, (The New Times, August 5)

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