Sex coercion or sex corruption?

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In the last two years, we have heard a new terminology in our country, one that seeks to define sexual coercion as sexual corruption.

Sexual coercion, when a person woman or man is being forced to engage in unwanted sexual acts is a form of corruption; however, encapsulating sex coercion in sex corruption limits the definition of acts of sex coercion.

In a nutshell, sex coercion includes acts of verbal innuendo or outright statements which describe sex acts or what activists call ‘being made to listen to one sided conversations or monologue on sex’.

Sex coercion includes being touched on parts of our bodies without our consent. It includes being made to watch sex acts while the perpetrator touches his/her parts of body as a way of pleasuring himself/herself.

Sex coercion is being made to look at pornography in the form of posters; video clips; film; against our will when such posters are hung in public spaces, or the video clips are sent to us via social media.

Sex coercion is being forced to engage in unwanted sex with a person who has some form of  power over us, which includes threats; bullying; and intimidation.

 

Sex coercion includes gas lighting, a form of mental torture by manipulation of one’s mind to turn a person into a sex slave, because the gas lighting has made them lose morale and self-respect to the extent of plummeting them in a downward spiral of losing self-esteem until they believe they are worthless, and only the perpetrator can make them feel whole. This side of sex coercion includes sex trafficking.

Sex coercion puts the recipient in a position of helplessness- some become depressive, while others make the attempt to fight back, only to find a wall, a barricade, put up by public opinion.

Unsolicited sexual attention or coercive sex has been defined in our legal system as sexual harassment (Ref: SOSPA 1998).

Sex corruption in the other hand brings to mind a person who participates in the giving of sex in exchange for favours, in kind like good grades in college; a job promotion; better housing facilities.

Here, corruption means there was an exchange of privilege or money, in exchange for sex.

Corruption is illegal, a criminal offence, but it includes so many variations and actors, that including sex coercion in the milieu of corruption activities, without a proper definition of sexual harassment, the various and varied forms it takes, the extent of pain and loss the person undergoing sexual harassment feels, all this diminishes the magnitude of the crime.

Then again, adding plea bargain in crimes of sexual harassment/unwanted sexual attention turn make wealthy perpetrators into serial offenders. They can afford to pay the fine then go on to repeat the offence.

 

What makes me worried is the ‘acceptance’ by ‘activists’ of sexual harassment not being coercive sex, but of being corruptible sex.

We do have a legal instrument which addresses unwanted sexual attention/sexual harassment. The Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act of 1998 has made provisions for coercive sex. The law needs some amendments on the statute of limitation to 60 days; and on the fine imposed on the perpetrator which needs to be upgraded. The SOSPA 1998 however still remains an excellent legislation in that, it addresses the victim as a survivor; has a clause on compensation for the survivor; and has given room for respect and dignity to the person who has undergone violation of her person; her dignity; her body from sex coercion.

Sex corruption makes the victim/survivor invisible. It is the state versus the perpetrator, a plea bargain is made, a fine (if one can call it fine) is agreed, and presto, the perpetrator is free.

I am rather concerned about lumping the crime of sex coercion alongside the crime of money laundering.

Sex coercion or sex extortion is much more widespread and much more destructive to a society.

A woman/man who has been in a situation of sex coercion experiences acute depression. I am a survivor and I can testify to this.

Loss of job which means loss of income and security; loss of health; loss of self esteem, especially when the perpetrator is supported and affirmed by the Establishment and the Judiciary- the Old Boys Network guffaw! Guffaw!

As a nation, we need to have conversations on sex coercion and sex corruption to reach a consensus on the definition (we did have a consensus in 1998 when we enacted SOSPA) of what constitutes sex coercion and what constitutes sex corruption.

I beg to differ on the definition of enforced sexual attention as sex corruption.

I understand sex corruption is when a woman/man is approached to dispense sexual favours and she/he concedes to participate in the job for sex, or college grades for sex. This exchange is corrupt and both parties need to be held to account.

Sex coercion is enforced; against a person’s will. It includes threats and bullying and intimidation.

We need to start the conversations asap!

“Together We Can Make it Happen”

Leila Sheikh

Senior Journalist

Activist for Gender Justice