On January 19th, 2023, KEMITRAAN Partnership for Governance Reform, an Indonesian based NGO, organized an expert meeting about the phenomenon of sextortion. This event was part of KEMITRAAN activities under the USAID INTEGRITAS program, aimed at preventing corruption by improving the identification and management of conflicts of interest. The expert meeting brought together national and international experts from government, academia, and civil society to explore the phenomenon of sextortion and discuss: (1) the connection between sexual relations, sexual exploitation, conflicts of interest, and corruption, and where sextortion fits within this spectrum; (2) how sextortion manifests itself, especially in the context of trying to access public services; (3) how Indonesia’s regulatory system handles these issues; (4) how sextortion came to be identified as a form of corruption and what needs to be done to make it a key part of anti-corruption efforts; and (5) best practices for protecting women against sexualized forms of corruption such as sextortion.
Nancy Hendry, Senior Advisor of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), represented the organization as a speaker. The IAWJ coined the term “sextortion” to describe a pattern of abuse that had elements of both corruption and sexual exploitation but didn’t seem to fit squarely within either legal framework. The IAWJ Toolkit on “Stopping the Abuse of Power through Sexual Exploitation: Naming, Shaming and Ending Sextortion,” defined sextortion as “the abuse of power to obtain a sexual benefit or advantage”. As this definition suggests, what distinguishes sextortion from other types of sexually abusive or corrupt conduct is that it has both a sexual component and a corruption component. In little more than a decade since the IAWJ concluded its initial sextortion program in Tanzania, the Philippines, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, sextortion has gone from being a phenomenon that was largely unrecognized, unexamined, and unaddressed to being a focus of research and discussion within the global anti-corruption community. The IAWJ celebrates that progress. Naming the phenomenon, raising awareness and gathering data about it, developing best practices for combating it, assuring that legal frameworks are adequate to address it, and changing institutional cultures through education, training, and standards of conduct, are all important steps in ending impunity for sextortion.
The IAWJ applauds KEMITRAAN for its efforts to raise awareness about sextortion within its network in Indonesia and South Asia and is grateful for the opportunity to share our experience in conceptualizing sextortion and working to understand and address the pervasive and disproportionate impact it has on women’s lives – from access to basic government services, education, employment, economic opportunities, healthcare, justice, political participation, and life-saving humanitarian aid or immigration assistance.