Sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) during the COVID-19 pandemic
Issues women are confronted with, in the society are numerous and require proactive responses of adept leaders and support at all levels for interventions if violence against women and girls will end. One of the major forms of violence that is widespread and found in almost every place including homes, offices or institutions, is sexual exploitation, however, it is one of the most under-reported as it subjects victims to silence due to power relation and fear from intimidation and threats.
Sexual exploitation according to the WHO is the attempt or actual abuse of a position of vulnerability, power or trust, for sexual purposes including but not limited to profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another. Consequently, a person who is sexually exploited is given food, drug, money, gift or any other such favours that may lure or coerce them into doing the exploiter’s bidding which usually is sexual activities. These perilous acts are performed discreetly and made possible by the use of power, threat and intimidation thus abusing the victim’s position of vulnerability to satisfy their high libido.
USAID says sexual exploitation and abuse occurs when people in power exploit or abuse vulnerable populations for sexual purposes, in essence, if an aid worker uses their position of authority to solicit sexual favours in exchange for benefits, this constitutes sexual exploitation. In learning institutions, we have seen sexual exploitations in form of sex for grades, admission and scholarship awards; in other organizations, it manifests as sex for employment, promotion, salary raise, incentives, work, contracts, political positions, recognition et al. and more often than not, victims are unaware that they are being violated because they have been convinced that it is acceptable behaviour and a survival mechanism.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial down-turn many have already experienced due to disenfranchisements resulting from the lockdown, sexual exploitation will unavoidably increase and women and girls are the targets for perpetrators of sexual exploitation. Sadly, those in positions of power are the perpetrators of this humiliating, degrading and exploitative behaviours and the current situation in the country has increased women’s vulnerability as their survival instinct will instigate subjection to this violence for benefits, especially amongst the unlearned. Apart from those within different neighbourhoods in residential areas, who lure under-aged children with petty and flashy items, such as food and toys, this act can be perpetrated by people providing aids such as palliatives, medical care and or security because there are corrupt and undisciplined persons amongst them.
We, therefore, appeal to Governor Hope Uzodinma to include in the committees CSOs and NGOs in the committee distributing palliatives as a means of protecting women and girls from these acts of misconduct that may arise and also put in place standards to ensure that perpetrators are punished as they are charged with the responsibility of protecting citizens not violating and infringing and on their rights. We also solicit the goodwill of philanthropists and faith-based organizations to support the impoverished and vulnerable groups who are worse hit and constitute the greater number of victims of violence during this period. Finally, we urge every citizen to show love by providing aid for the needy around them as a means of protecting them from victimization.
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