Activist urges people to break silence on sexual extortion

A rights activist has urged people to join hands in breaking the silence around sexual extortion, which happens when a person, such as a potential employer, coerces someone to give photos, videos and recordings or to perform acts that are sexual nature.

In most cases, the offenders use the opportunity to ask for sexual favors and money. They use guilt, power and ravaging information to force their offender to take action in their favor.

In an interview with Malawi24, a rights activist against sexual exploitation and gender-based inequalities in Malawi Ponelo Kalonga said that it is worrisome that people are experiencing sexual extortion and gender-based violence but fail to report or voice out due to norms and traditional practices surrounding them.

Kalonga added that due to the culture of silence that exists in most of in the communities, a lot of extortion cases go unreported and the victims suffer in silence.

“This affects them negatively because they cannot go out to report meaningful development as such l am implementing a project in the area of Traditional Authority Mwambo in Zomba district.

“Early this year I was privileged to be selected as one of the Resilience Fund Fellows from around the world and organisation that provides grants and support to civil society individuals and organizations working to counter the impacts of criminal governance and violence across the world,” she said.

Kalonga went on to say that she is working to address the issue of extortion at community level amongst youth particularly in situations where they are seeking employment, business opportunities and other services.

As part of enabling people to fully understand about the issues of extortion and gender-based violence, the activist conducted an awareness campaign at Jali in Zomba district.

She encouraged youths to report issues of extortion they face, especially when pursuing employment opportunities, to the police and other bodies so that perpetrators should face the law.

She said with the help of the law enforcement officers who were present at the awareness campaign, her organization provided sufficient evidence available to the people for them to justify reasonable beliefs about the state of extortion in their communities.

“During the campaign I also urged the government of Malawi of a need for collaborated efforts in the fight against extortion among youth in order to end the scourge and build more resilient communities,” she explained.