“Ending Abuse of Authority for Purposes of Sexual Exploitation (Sextortion): The Experience of the Judiciary in Tanzania”


Opening Remarks by John Hendra, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director Policy and Programme, UN Women, at the Government of Tanzania Side Event: “Ending Abuse of Authority for Purposes of Sexual Exploitation (Sextortion): The Experience of the Judiciary in Tanzania,” 12 March 2013

Thank you Ambassador Ramadhan Mwinyi. Distinguished Panelists, Ladies and Gentlemen;

I’m very pleased to be here today on behalf of UN Women, and at the outset let me thank the Government of Tanzania, and the Tanzania Women Judges Association (TAWJA), for organizing this important side event.

I would also like to commend TAWJA for the excellent and innovative work they have been doing to address and promote women’s rights from within the judiciary, by reaching out to the court system, as well as to the general public.

It’s of critical importance that we harness all efforts to end violence against women and girls. Depending on where you live, three to seven out of 10 women experience physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of their spouse or partner. And this is simply unacceptable. As Madame Bachelet said at the opening of CSW last week, now is the time to act to put an end to violence against women and girls in all its forms.

The concept of “Sextortion” is an important addition to our understanding of different forms of violence against women and girls and the enabling environment, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours that perpetuate violence. Such conduct is not only sexually violent and abusive, but it is also a form of corruption. The perpetrator, usually a man in legitimate authority, abuses their authority by demanding or accepting sexual acts in exchange for the exercise of that authority.

The CEDAW Convention addresses this specific form of violence against women under General Recommendation 19 to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Violence against Women. And the UN system has adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards this kind of sexual abuse and exploitation by its staff. Launched in 2003 by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the policy states that: “exchange of money, employment, good or services for sex, including sexual favours or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behavior is prohibited. This includes any exchange of assistance that is due to beneficiaries of assistance.”

Talking about sexual abuse, exploitation, and coercion in all its forms, including “sextortion”, is an important step towards breaking the silence about violence against women. Just as importantly, it situates violence against women and girls in the broader context of good governance and economic and social rights. The basic poverty rate in Tanzania is 34 per cent, and women are over-represented among the very poor, putting them at severe risk of exploitation and abuse. Most typically, employers or potential employers coerce sexual acts from women or girls in return for employment or promotion. Not only women in the formal workforce, but also domestic workers, cross-border traders, and students, the majority of them girls, are affected.

Naming and addressing “sextortion” is critical to tackle widespread corruption and abuse of authority as well as the vulnerability and violence women and girls experience in accessing services and opportunities. Having strong, responsive laws and policies in place is essential. In Tanzania, “sextortion” is illegal under both the Penal Code and the Anti-Corruption Act, and several cases have been successfully prosecuted. In addition, as we will hear from our other speakers, TAWJA has been training judges to adjudicate cases of violence and discrimination and conducting awareness raising with the general public.

Unfortunately, as we know, this phenomenon is not unique to Tanzania – it is universal and is happening around the world. Much more remains to be done to put an end to weak implementation and lack of accountability, and the culture of silence and impunity surrounding violence against women, that underpins and perpetuates abuse of power and authority.

It’s critically important that we discuss this problem at events such as this, and take the opportunity to share and learn from other initiatives globally. The “Sextortion” training, developed in Tanzania, together with the practical tools and manuals being disseminated today, is one important initiative, and I hope today’s event will help to ensure this knowledge and information is made more widely available and used to inform programming and action in other countries.

There are also important linkages to be made with UN Women’s existing programme on Women in Informal Cross Border Trade in Tanzania, which targets women traders, and the economic and sexual vulnerability and exploitation they experience. A baseline study supported by UN Women unveiled appalling levels of rape, sexual exploitation and extortion of informal women cross-border traders.

Engaging with young people and the education system is also critical, as “sextortion” disproportionately affects young women and girls for example when teachers and employers coerce them to engage in sexual acts in exchange for grades, jobs and other opportunities. In addition, further research and analysis is needed to develop a robust evidence base for rolling out and expanding efforts to end “sextortion” in government policy and programming.

UN Women very much appreciates the long-term partnership we have had with the Judiciary in Tanzania and with TAWJA in particular. We have the same priorities: addressing violence against women and girls and enhancing women’s access to justice and services and economic empowerment. We also share with you a commitment to end abuse of power and authority.

In closing, let me congratulate TAWJA for your leadership in the International Association of Women Judges, and the opportunity this provides for global partnerships and dialogue. I commend the Government of Tanzania for organizing this side event to better raise awareness of how to more effectively fight, and prosecute, “sextortion”.

I will now introduce our panelists. They will speak in turn, and I will then open the floor for questions. We will conclude the session with a response from the panelists.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Ms. Anne T. Goldstein who serves as Human Rights Education Director of the International Association of Women Judges. Ms. Goldstein, you have the floor.

It now gives me great pleasure to introduce the Honourable Justice Engera Mammari Kileo, Judge of the Court of Appeal, and Chairperson of the Tanzanian Women Judges Association. Honourable Justice, you have the floor.

Thank you.