A new report released by Transparency International Rwanda has revealed that up to 75 percent of women in the country are subjected to sexual exploitation at workplaces. This are disturbing statistics.
The countrywide research also indicated that gender-based corruption as it is referred to in the report, is more concentrated in the private sector at 57 percent, followed by higher learning institutions at 42 percent.
The report is just shining a light on a vice that has been rampant in different places of work in Rwanda, albeit silent hence the increase in cases. It has been an open secret that managers at different workplaces exploit young girls especially those that are fresh from university, taking advantage of how desperate they normally are to find employment.
The recent economic contractions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, where people lost jobs and it became harder to land a job, made things even worse.
Although some refuse to give in to the exploitation, many succumb and even worse is the fact that the sexual exploitation goes on even after getting the job. Some people have sadly downplayed the cases, saying it is transactional and that the victims are also culpable, ignoring the power dynamics at play in gender-based corruption cases in workplaces.
The government should use this data as an entry point to begin investigations into the issue if sexual exploitation at workplaces. The victims haven’t reported because they fear repercussions, stigma and also because it is hard to present evidence.
So, line institutions ought to first of all handle this as a special intervention by first creating safe spaces for victims to feel secure to come out. Depression and other mental health cases have been reported to be on the rise in the country and some of these unreported, or unaddressed personal events like sexual exploitation are some of the contributing factors.
The thick wall of patriarchy in the country and unreasonable laws in place, which have made it hard for rape and other sexual crimes victims to be heard or get justice need to be fought until they are reviewed.
The gender monitoring office, other line authorities and civil society organizations should come up with a joint position paper and a petition table to higher authorities to look into the matter. The concerted joint petition can be table on the backdrop of a country-wide campaign against sexual exploitation and other related cases.
This would be pushing for justice but also awareness raising to embolden the victims to come out and report these cases, as well as rehabilitating those that suffer mental health related issues as a result.
This is one of the times the 62 percent women representation in parliament needs to count for something, by jumping into action to push for law reforms and advocate for the rights of young girls and women to work in a safe environment.
If nothing is done after such statistics have been revealed to safeguard women in workplaces, it will be a major failure on the side of government, civil society and the society as a whole.