Published in the Newsday 15 march 2017

Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating the International Women’s Day on the 8th of March 2017 under the theme #BeBoldForChange. Sadly, the impact of corruption on women remains least explored and discussed by key developmental and governance actors. Such impact remains least documented in policy and academic narratives and has received less and less advocacy and policy responses. Corruption is generally defined as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. However, corruption is not restricted to money changing hands. Sexual extortion and sexual favours are also a form of corruption. Therefore, in light of the international women’s day Transparency International-Zimbabwe (TI-Z) focuses this article on sexual extortion also known as sextortion, a term coined by the  International Association of Women Judges.


Sextortion occurs when a person who occupies a position of authority and public trust abuses their power and demands sexual favours for some benefit that the person in authority has the power to grant or withhold. Thus, the transacting currency between the parties involved is sexual favours and women are often the victims. The sexual component need not be sexual intercourse or even physical touching. It could be any form of unwanted sexual activity, such as exposing private body parts, posing for sexual photographs, participating in phone sex, or submitting to an inappropriate touching


The 2012 Youth and Corruption Baseline study by TI-Z referred to the acronyms “STDs and TFMs. These acronyms are often used by students in institutions of higher learning in referring to what they call Sexually Transmitted Degrees and Thigh for Marks in their context. These newly coined terms and acronyms refer to a growing practice in the academic institutions where lectures are alleged to be abusing their authority and public trust through demanding sexual favours from female students in return of a passing mark. Despite this growing trend of sextortion, studies carried out by TI Z have shown that women in Zimbabwe remain disempowered to report this form of corruption due to some of factors highlighted below:

  • Fear of the negative social labels and stigmatization
  • Women and girls fear to lose what one would have gained through sextortion.
  • The realization by victims that the damage has already been done.
  • Institutions for legal redress are not properly structured to respond in time to the problem of sextortion   Court cases in Zimbabwe can drag for years without a final judgement being passed.


As we celebrate women’s month TI-Z is of the view that everyone has a role to play in eliminating this form of corruption. To fight this form of corruption there is need to adopt gender sensitive anti-corruption programming at national level. As a country, we need to come up with policies that include specific strategies designed to reduce women’s exposure to opportunities for sexual exposure. There is need for effective collaboration for those in anti-corruption and in gender equality sectors in fighting this silent form of corruption