Is it media really responsible to root out sexual harassment? I’d say it’s the role of our lawmakers to put in place ironclad laws that absolutely protect the victims of this despicable crime.
As long as people are afraid of the repercussions of speaking up, we will continue to hear about the prevalence of sexual corruption in institutions.
It is incredibly difficult (almost impossible) to determine the extent of sex-based corruption (sex demanded or offered in exchange for favours, and not necessarily only about employment; it can involve preferential access to other privileges and rights whose access is controlled or is influenced by the person who demands or is offered sex in exchange for that access).
First, neither party in the transaction is interested in disclosing the fact (the one who has offered or been coerced into offering her/his sexual favours because they are either ashamed, or because they fear retribution, or were themselves willing parties to the transaction and are satisfied with the outcome).
Secondly, because it is notoriously difficult, even where the subordinate party complains, to prove that there either was a sexual transaction (it is a matter of she said, he said), or, where both parties admit to it, that it was coerced rather than of two consenting adults.
Finally, it is not always clear whether the initiator in the transaction was in fact the person to whom the sexual favours were given. It could very well be that the one seeking the advantage/privilege may in fact have been the initiator.
In such a case, the only reason they would complain would be if the other party had not fulfilled their part of the deal.
Of course the appearance of soliciting or accepting sexual favours from those seeking a public service (or even a private service, such as access to employment, where non-discrimination laws exist) is illegal, or at the very least, unethical.
Where it is not illegal, the laws should be tightened to make it so. But it will still remain highly difficult to bring cases under such statutes given the understandable reluctance of the parties involved (usually two people alone) to go public, or for the police and prosecutors to gain the necessary material evidence to assure conviction.
Widespread sensitisation campaigns against succumbing to this practice, targeting especially those most susceptible to this kind of corruption, whether at the giving or receiving end, may be the best option.
Mwene Kalinda, Rwanda
Reactions from the article, “Why big wigs are missing on the list of corrupt officials” (The New Times, August 27)