Corruption, understood as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain, is rampant in South Africa. It endangers democracy, equality, the rule of law, ethical values, and justice. Furthermore, many forms of gender inequality are closely linked to high levels of corruption.
Corruption such as bribery, abuse of power or petty corruption occurs both in the public and private sectors. But for women, there lies another type of currency which corrupt individuals seek to extract: Sex. This type of corruption is called sextortion or sexual extortion, and it occurs when those entrusted with power use it to sexually exploit those dependent on that power.
Sextortion is a gendered form of corruption that is mainly affecting the LGBTQIA+ community, women and children.
For an act to constitute sextortion, two components must be present:
- Sexual activity: Sextortion involves an implicit or explicit request to engage in any kind of unwanted sexual activity, which can range from sexual intercourse to exposing parts of the body.
- Corruption: The persons who demand the sexual activity must occupy a position of authority, which they abuse by seeking to extract, or by accepting, a sexual act in exchange for exercising the power entrusted to them.
Women often occupy the traditional gender role of caregiver, which means they are more likely to engage with public services such as healthcare, schooling or social grants. Therefore, women are more likely to be exposed to corruption and more likely to pay bribes in order to access these services..
Women who are survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) may not be able to access justice where there is a corrupt relationship between police officers, court officials and perpetrators. For example, perpetrators may bribe officials to lose dockets or to not accept reports against them.
Patriarchal attitudes within policing and other law enforcement services affect women and the LGBTQIA+ community, making them less likely to be taken seriously when reporting GBV or gendered corruption. Patriarchy intersects with corruption to favour perpetrators and disadvantage survivors of GBV.