RESEARCHING AND RAISING AWARENESS ABOUT SEXTORTION IN WATER AND SANITATION
Bangladesh, Mexico, Kenya
UNU-MERIT, DORP, Change Initiative
WHAT IT'S ABOUT
Sexual extortion, or “sextortion”, is a gendered form of corruption in which sexual acts, rather than money, are the currency of a bribe. It is common in the water and sanitation sectors, meaning that many (mostly) women will have to pay with their bodies for an essential service which should be a guaranteed human right.
What makes sextortion nefarious and complex is the social stigma associated with it, the power dynamics related to gender, the paucity of research and data on the act, and the corruption in the larger system that makes reporting and taking action difficult. The fact that there is an exchange or transaction when sextortion occurs makes reporting more difficult and victim blaming common.
This makes sextortion different from other forms of gender-based violence and possibly more taboo, even though the consequences are severe. These include shame and trauma for victims, direct and indirect economic consequences, the transmission of diseases, unwanted pregnancies, exclusion, and other social consequences.
WIN partners, including KEWASNET in Kenya, and the SIWI Water Governance Facility in Colombia and South Africa, pioneered research on sex for water. Still the topic remains misunderstood and hard to take on. WIN is continuing to support research and raise awareness on the dynamics and impact of sextortion as well as the needs of survivors.
WIN worked with DORP and Change Initiative on the largest study specifically on sextortion in 2 regions in Bangladesh. The first results, published with UNU-Merit show that poverty, low literacy, and inadequate access to water and sanitation facilities are drivers of sextortion. Further research is ongoing in Mexico.
Factsheet: what is sextortion and what should be done about it
Working paper on research in Bangladesh:
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