A female primary school teacher hailing from Muhanga district in southern Rwanda recently told the office of the Ombudsman that she was asked to offer sexual favours before she could be offered a well-paying job.
“Someone in position of authority promised to pay me Rwf250, 000 worth of monthly salary but I declined since the condition was to sleep with him to get that job,” the teacher whose name was not disclosed reportedly told the office of the Ombudsman when it was investigating sex-based corruption which has recently emerged as a serious form of human degradation in Rwanda.
Today many stories like this are increasingly being heard and the majority victims are women seeking employment. Studies have been done and there is a growing demand for action against perpetrators.
The seemingly escalating situation has recently aroused public sentiments and now one non-government organisation advocating a graft free society wants criminalisation of sex based graft to curb it.
Francine Umurungi, who is in charge of institutional development and advocacy at Transparency -Rwanda, a local chapter of Transparency International (TI), a global anti-corruption watchdog, recently told Members of Parliament in Kigali that there is a huge increase of sex-based corruption in the country and yet there is lack of legal instruments to condemn it.
Quoting a study carried out by Transparency-Rwanda last year, Umurungi said, “Most offenders go unpunished or undetected.” She said that the study revealed that “this form of corruption does exist in Rwanda and its scale is far from negligible, recruitment remains the main entry point for this form of corruption and women in general are the main victims of gender based corruption in work places, while men in decision making positions are the main perpetrators.”
According to Umurungi, sex based corruption is one of the most ignored types of corruption yet it’s rampant in society. The study revealed that sex corruption is a growing trend in the job market. Job seekers report loss of potential employment opportunities because of refusal to have sexual relations with hiring males.
It revealed that 90 percent of respondents agreed that sexual corruption is common.
Umurungi showed the members of the parliament a video clip of people testifying as having been victims of sex based violence. Marie Immaculée Ingabire, the Chairperson of Transparency -Rwanda told The Independent that the main consequences of gender based corruption are loss of employment as well as denial of employees’ rights.
“It is a big issue in our society today and it requires a collective responsibility where everyone has to play a role in order to curb it,” Ingabire said. “We know so many cases but the biggest challenge is that there is no specific law that penalises sex based on corruption yet most of the other forms of corruption have stringent laws in place.
We need to do something like taking action by criminalising it,” she further said, adding, “Transparency -Rwanda, has plans to meet other stakeholders to raise awareness and call for action against this form of corruption.” Ingabire urges parents to be creative in their style of parenting and also enlighten children on their rights and values. Parliament should not leave this to other players but should also do something about it, she said.
Senator Tito Rutaremara urged parliamentarians to play a role in the fight against the vice. The 2012 Transparency Rwanda study indicates 58% prevalence of sex-based corruption in the private sector, against 51% for the public sector and 43% in the civil society.
The study stated that victims of sex based corruption also termed as abuse are mainly women and among job-seekers who had experienced gender-based corruption, 85% were women. Perpetrators are men measured at 83%, with most of them being directors or persons in other senior positions.
Umurungi stated that victims are challenged with lack of evidence when the matter is taken to courts which she said was a serious issue but people seem to pay less attention to it thus affecting any efforts to end it.
The report also reported issues within education sector where from university to primary education levels, teachers sexually corrupt their students. In public institutions, sex corruption happens when employers want to promote their workers, or to send them in special trainings and when appraisal reports are to be made.
Researchers say the issue of sex corruption is small but a growing issue in the local labor market. Sex based corruption is currently punishable by articles 12 and 16 of the law against corruption in Rwanda but its campaigners believe this is not enough.
The law states that any person who explicitly or implicitly demands sexual acts or who accepts or promises sexual acts in exchange for duties can be given a sentence ranging from ten years and a fine ranging also from Rwf50, 000 to Rwf1million.
In a related development another survey which was conducted by the Rwanda Education Board (REB) exposed that 640 underage girls were constantly sexually abused. According to REB report many of the girls who were defiled were minors in primary three or four. For Ingabire, the fight against this crime remains very difficult to eradicate as in Rwandan Culture, open discussion of sex-related issues is still a taboo.
According to the reports, many victims of such sexual harassment do not report it for fear of reprisals.