Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)
ZERO TOLERANCE ON SEXUAL BRIBERY
Sexual bribery is when a sexual favour is demanded by a public officer
“Because of the current cultural and social barriers women are reluctant to come forward and make a complaint, ”dig Crimes and Organized Crimes Priyantha Jayakody
The Bribery Act does not cover the corporate sector
The victims are afraid of appearing in court due to cases dragging on
Related to a panel discussion on ‘Sexual Bribery’, which was held at the BMICH last month, the unnoted burning issues affecting women, who are subject to sexual bribery, came to light. Sashee de Mel, Senior Manager of Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), opened the panel by speaking about this predominant crisis where women have been subject to sexual bribery and the importance of creating the necessary awareness among the community. Ms de Mel, then invited Shaymala Gomez, Executive Director Centre for Equality and Justice, to discuss ‘what is sexual bribery’. She also directed a question as to how it is recognised in the anti-corruption legal framework within Sri Lanka.
NEED FOR EXPLICIT RECOGNITION IN THE LAW
Accordingly, Ms Gomez defined the term ‘sexual bribery’ as when a sexual favour is demanded by a public officer. Right now although there is the Bribery Act, where sexual bribery is not clearly emphasised, the word ‘gratification’ is what is highlighted. She said that giving visibility to the terminology ‘sexual’ in the act is what is required.
“When we started digging into cases such as suicide in the North, so many other cases associated with women continuously sprang up one by one like a cancer,” said Shreen Saroor, a Women’s Rights Activist.
In the height of this plight there were women who were mostly affected by the public officers in Northern and North Central Provinces. The number of Tamil and Muslim women were high. A recent incident took place at the Jaffna University, and led to a red notice being issued where everybody had to become aware of the corruption taking place.
Next, in a school for the differently abled, the principal had started demanding sexual bribes from students. The most distressing point was that these student victims were restricted because they could use only sign language to communicate. Numerous other cases have been reported island wide, both in the private and public sectors. In fact, the most talked about incident is linked to the Sri Lanka women’s cricket team. The manger had demanded a sexual bribe from a player in order to get her into the playing XI, Dr Saroor said.
“The Bribery Act never covered the corporate sector. This happens more in the corporate sector than in the public sector. But, there are no legal regulations for it,” DIG Crimes and Organized Crimes Priyantha Jayakody said.
From 2010 to 2019 there have been 13 cases reported to the Bribery Commission and nine out of them were successfully detected while six were prosecuted. This is the only empowered organisation to handle bribery and corruption in the country, DIG Jayakody said.
These victims, mostly women, are afraid of appearing in court and rise against such corruption due to the cases dragging on. They fear such action might cause problems to their children. Therefore creating awareness on the subject among rural women should be done in order to resolve these cases, the law enforcement officer further added.
WHO ARE EXPOSED?
Moreover, according to Dr Saroor women who are mostly vulnerable and exposed to sexual bribery are women who are widows or divorcees. It is also debated that people of the transgender community have become most vulnerable to sexual bribery. It’s a fact that men know how vulnerable they are. Therefore sexual bribery is demanded in order to have access to public services. She also highlighted the language barrier between the victims the police officers. This has contributed towards a failure in communication where women in the North are concerned. As a result many officers at police stations are unable to note down details of such corruption or gather evidence. Furthermore, she insisted that some laws have made women vulnerable to be sought after for sexual bribery. In fact the cause for suicides reported in Batticaloa were threats coming from their association with microfinance cases. She underscored the need for the Bribery Act to cover the corporate sector.
She also pointed out the needed trust to retain the credibility of the victims. For instance, if the victims complain to the associates the necessary actions should be taken instantly rather than merely transfering the accused.
It’s vehemently important to make the community aware of the need to address the deep plight suffered by women. The patriarchal norms of society make some women conform to this suppression. It’s often conventional norms that keep such women drifting away from rising against corruption. This is the social ostracization, where women are ignored. Moreover, the final point the panelists spoke of was the ‘law’. Laws being regulated in the country are inadequate to charge an act of bribery, and this comes with the term ‘gratification’. The moderator Ms de Mel concluded the discussion sharing some of the contributions of the institute she represents to make the community, especially women in rural areas, aware of this subject mostly affecting them.
This institute has also conducted poster campaigns and social media campaigns to strength the community.