Sextortion, as a form of sexual abuse and violence, is generally not recognized as an offence in anti-corruption legal frameworks. National legal frameworks on gender-based violence also fail to adequately address the practice. Sextortion, therefore, often falls into the gap between anti-corruption laws and the legal frameworks designed to address gender-based violence.  In this paper we argue that it is important for development programmes and bureaucratic practice to take a feminist approach to understanding and tackling sextortion. This means seriously analyzing the ways sextortion as a form of sexual coercion and discrimination is a targeted tactic of power and reinforces gendered roles in society. The failure by anticorruption practitioners to think about how sextortion is rooted in patriarchy further entrenches the system rather than address the problem. We theorize the ways sextortion constructs and protects a particular form of masculinity that precludes having empathy for victims and allows perpetrators to ignore sexual violence, thereby fostering impunity. We also argue that attention should be focused on vulnerability, rather than just women. By challenging vulnerability’s association with femininity, anti-corruption practitioners will be better placed to recognize and address the challenges faced by other groups.  As a result of such an approach and analysis, practically addressing sextortion will require undertaking a gendered power analysis of processes and programs to identify the gender power relations and gender dynamics that create opportunities for sextortion in public processes; setting clear objectives and strategies for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment as part of sectoral, institutional and programme planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and learning; and promoting gender-awareness and gender parity in public institutions.

Monica Kirya

Interim U4 Deputy Director; Principal Adviser (U4)

Matthew Gichohi

Post Doctoral Researcher