RWANDA: Sex Corruption Grows as Barrier to Employment for Women in Rwanda

Thursday, August 9, 2012
Global Press Institute
Central Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights

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.

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.