There are many reasons people engage in sexual activities. While a lot of people have sex with their partners because they are into it, others feel obligated for fear of losing their relationships.
Yet, others use sex to entice or lure others to submit to their will. We hear stories about people who have allegedly enticed their bosses and had affairs with them to boost their career prospects in terms of trainings or promotions.
However, there are also some people, particularly women, who are forced to have sex unwillingly with their bosses or superiors to keep their jobs or as conditions for recognitions.
A Kalondolondo survey conducted in some parts of Malawi, including Ntchisi and Kasungu last year showed how women were forced to sleep with their foremen or other superiors to secure jobs.
A married woman from Ntchisi’s Traditional Authority (T/A) Kasakula (name withheld) got pregnant after a sexual relations with one of the foremen as a recruit in the public works initiative implemented by Malawi Social Action Fund (Masaf).
The study, conducted by Mponela Aids Information and Counseling Centre (MAICC) further indicates that a lot of women who refuse to sleep with the foremen or get tired with the conduct of the foremen end up quitting.
“Women are given a lot of work, a minimum of 10 metres a day instead of four metres a day and are also expected to do more work at home.
“That is why some are forced to sleep with foremen to reduce their workload and secure their places,” said Pempho Sinkanda, MAICC’s projects officer.
But can such women report this to authorities and be helped?
Human rights activist Habiba Osman said the acts are a violation of one’s rights and women subjected to this kind of abuse have a right to report to authorities such as the police or Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC).
“Some of these acts can lead to HIV and Aids, but also bring psychological trauma to the individual. Women must also know that they have other avenues such as Women organisations that deal with gender-based violence (GBV) issues, where they can report such abuses.
“Silence cripples many people forced into harmful acts and prevents justice on perpetrators,” explained Osman.
The activist mentioned that there are provisions in the Malawi laws that protect women against discrimination on the basis of gender or marital status.
“Legislation, specifically the Penal Code and the Gender Equality Act (GEA), is clear on issues of harassment, physical rape and other sexual offences. For instance, the GEA prohibits sexual harassment and sexual discrimination. Under the Penal Code, if a woman is forced to have sex to protect or get a job amounts to crime.
“Under GEA, if a person treats another person less favourably than he or she would treat a person of his or her own sex, the law states that this is harassment,” said Osman.
She added that a person who commits such an offence is liable to a K1 million fine or five years imprisonment, according to the new Gender Equality Act.
“What may be problematic is to prove whether someone was forced, but if there is evidence of physical force for instance, then it is clearly, rape,” she said.