BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
WHILE Zimbabwe has taken great strides in advancing gender equality, women are becoming more vulnerable to sexual abuse in the absence of both political and economic muscle to restore the balance.
The situation has been exacerbated by the current economic environment and according to a 2019 report by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), women have been forced to offer sexual favours in exchange for jobs, medical care and even when seeking placements at schools for their children.
The study, which is a first in a series of researches under the title Gender and Corruption, seeks to bring to the fore the relationship between gender and corruption, as well as identifying social, cultural, economic and political factors that contribute to how women and men are affected by corruption and the different impacts.
The report revealed that more than 57% of women surveyed said they had been forced to offer sexual favours in exchange for jobs, medical care and even seeking placements at schools for their children.
A survey participant from Nkayi said: “Most organisations are led by men and when we try to seek employment they will ask for sexual favours. If you refuse you will not get the job.”
Renowned psychiatrist and director of the African Mental Health Research Initiative, Dixon Chibanda, said: “We need to create safe spaces that nurture a sense of community belonging and safety for all women.”
Women Action Group director Edna Musiiwa said the report had confirmed the fact that women were used for sexual gratification by men.
“We should have programmes that support women to say ‘no’ to these abuses. We should also have programmes that empower women meaningfully,” she said.
In Zimbabwe, there have been deliberate efforts to establish various institutional, legal and policy frameworks but the country still ranks low on the gender inequality index.
“The social, political and economic environment in Zimbabwe revealed that women lack both the political and economic muscle which greatly hinders their ability to demand transparency and accountability to highlight their specific concerns about corruption,” the researchers said.
The gendered dimension of corruption dubbed “sextortion” has also affected women trying to secure land. Many, according to the report, had lost a considerable amount of money to land barons. The major findings from the survey were that most women were experiencing corruption in accessing everyday social and public services. The rights of women were seriously undermined by the increasing need to bribe when accessing public goods and services.