Sex Corruption Grows as Barrier to Employment for Women in Rwanda

A new study revealed that sex corruption is a growing trend in the job market here. Job seekers report losing potential employment opportunities because of a refusal to have sexual relations with employers. A new media campaign aims to draw attention to the issue.

KIGALI, RWANDA – One local woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says she has struggled to find work because potential employers expect more from her than the job description suggests.

Last year, she applied for a job at a local company that was hiring in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. But when she submitted her letters of recommendation to the manager, she says he added a new requirement to the application process.

“He immediately called me to come back in his office,” she says.

She says she returned to his office, curious about what he needed to say to her in private.

“He is the boss, and I was obeying him for fear to lose a job [opportunity],” she says.

When she returned, she says he began to allude to an extra and unexpected step in the application process.

“‘If you behave well to me, you will immediately find the job,’” she says he told her.

When she asked what he meant, she says he intimated that she could attain the position in exchange for a sexual relationship with him.

“‘As an adult person, you understand that we must be friends and enjoy weekends together,’” she recalls that he told her. “‘Even you must be available every time I want to meet you and have a drink with you. And if necessary, we [will] pass a night together.”

She says that if she cooperated, he promised her the position, a good salary and even extra money to rent a house.

“I told him I will think about it,” she admits. “But from that time, I didn’t return there, and, of course, I lost the job.”

Researchers say the issue of sexual corruption is a small but growing issue in Rwanda’s labor market.

Both women and men report instances of employers bribing job seekers or employees – especially women – with jobs and promotions in exchange for sex. Researchers and recruiters say this phenomenon is a growing trend in the labor market here. The government penalizes such exchanges with fines and imprisonment. A nonprofit organization has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the issue.

Women made up 84.5 percent of victims, and men make up 15.5 percent of victims of sex-based bribery in the workplace, according to a report by Transparency International Rwanda, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting corruption. The group most exposed to this trend, referred to as gender-based corruption, is women seeking employment. The next group is female secretaries, accounting for 29 percent of victims.

The report identifies five types of gender-based corruption, all linked to sexual exchanges in the workplace: sexually suggestive language between managers and employees, listed as the most common type; sexual extortion by senior staff or colleagues to gain access to various services; sexual favors in order to access opportunities; lack of access to services because of perceptions that women would not give in to corruption; and denial to access a given advantage for having resisted sexual proposals from managers or colleagues.

A 22-year-old woman of medium height, who declined to give her name because of the stigma attached to the issue, says she is unemployed. As she washes her clothes outside, she says one barrier to attaining a job has been sexual bribery.

Last year, she applied for a job recommended to her by her neighbor. But she says that the head of the center featuring the open position asked her to engage in a sexual relationship with him, promising her that it would help her pass the exam portion of the application process.

“That chief kept calling to meet me and asking me to be in an intimate relationship,” she says. “And told me that if I accept this friendship, I will definitely succeed [in] the exam because he was the one to prepare the exam. Therefore, we may prepare it together, and he promised to give me a very good post like being his secretary.”

She says she rejected his offer.

“But I refused, because my neighbor told me he was HIV-positive,” she says. “And besides, he was very older than me and even married.”

She is now planning to continue her studies so that she can find a good job.

Sexual corruption is also an issue for male job seekers, though less frequently reported.

A 24-year-old man, who declined to be named, says that before he landed his current job writing for a newspaper in Kigali, he was propositioned while applying for a job at age 22.

“I was in [my] first year [of] university,” he says. “Then, someone informed me that there was a woman who wanted a worker in her jewelry shop in Kigali.”

He says he went there and told the 37-year-old shop owner that he was looking for a job.

“‘As you are a very handsome boy,’” he says she told him in a soft voice, “‘I would first ask you to enjoy life together and pass a long time together, so that I can have faith in you that you will not steal [from] me if [I’m] not around. Then I [will] give you a job in my jewelry shop.’”

He left and did not return.

Robert Murwanashyaka, an accountant at the Farming and Business Corporation Project, says that sexual corruption is becoming an obstacle to employment in the country.

“I know it is a lively issue these days,” he says. “Because me, too, I am in charge of receiving new employees in the company I work in.”

He says that some job seekers reject propositions from the people interviewing them but that others agree to have sex with potential employers in order to attain the jobs.

“Some girls fear to talk out, but they show expressions in front of men to be sexually attractive, so that if they like them, may give them jobs,” he says.

Apollinaire Mupiganyi, executive secretary of Transparency International Rwanda, says that this issue has not been widespread in the past in Rwanda. But it is now a growing problem, she adds.

In the Transparency International Rwanda report, this type of corruption was not citizens’ top labor concern. Of the respondents interviewed, 10 percent recognized the existence of gender-based corruption in the organizations where they worked, and 5 percent identified themselves as victims. Half of these victims did not report the incidents when they occurred.

“This is not really a very big issue these days in Rwanda,” Mupiganyi says. “But it is increasing day to day.”

Marie Immaculée Ingabire, chairwoman of Transparency International Rwanda, says that women are victims of sexual corruption more often than men.

“Not at a big percentage but also some female employers ask this corruption to their male employees,” she says.

She says that only women have reported incidents to the organization so far.

Mupiganyi says that the organization’s research has detected sex corruption to be more prevalent in the private sector than the public one. She attributes this to stricter regulations and open practices governing public institutions than private institutions, which are independent.

Edmond Tubanambazi, a lawyer with the Ministry of Public Service and Labor, says that the public and private sector have different employment regulations but that both are accountable to the same corruption laws.

“The same laws punish corruption and other criminal offenses both in the public sector and in the private sector,” he says.

Beyond laws, Inabire says HIV infection is a potential consequence for accepting and rejecting a job in exchange for sexual favors.

Charles Kaliwabo, spokesman for the Rwanda judiciary, says there are laws against corruption with varying punishments.

“Punishments are there for people who ask such corruption,” he says.

Articles 12 and 16 of Law No. 23 against corruption say that any person who explicitly or implicitly demands sexual acts or who accepts or promises sexual acts in exchange for duties can receive a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine ranging from 50,000 francs ($80) to 1,000,000 francs ($1,650).

Still, he says that female job seekers are hesitant to report cases of sex corruption.

“However, we do not receive many of such cases,” he says. “Girls are still hiding this. They are fearful.”

He encourages girls and women to report incidents to the police.

The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent public institution established by the constitution in 2003 that also aims to fight injustice and corruption through various trainings, campaigns and partnerships. Jeanne Pauline Gashumba, acting director of Preventing and Fighting Corruption and Related Offenses Unit of the Office of the Ombudsman, says the office works in partnership with Transparency International Rwanda to address corruption.

Gashumba says that Transparency International Rwanda researches and advises on corruption cases, while the Office of the Ombudsman follows up the cases in court.

Transparency International Rwanda has launched anti-corruption campaigns via billboards and TV advertisements. One of its TV advertisements depicts a girl refusing to have sex with a boss to attain a job. The organization also holds workshops and initiates clubs in secondary schools to discourage corruption.

by Ritha Bumwe Reporter
Thursday – August 9, 2012

Source: Global Press Institute