Inside the Push to Criminalise Sextortion

A picture of a keyboard with the word sextortion and a woman on the side.

Parliament has debated a petition by Nairobi Women Representative Esther Passaris, urging amendments to the Penal Code to specifically include sextortion as a criminal offense.

This move comes in response to increasing instances of sexual exploitation reported in both the public and private sectors across the nation.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sextortion as: “when an online predator tricks someone into giving them nude images or videos, and then demands money, more images, or makes other demands—threatening to share the images with the victim's friends and family if they don't comply.”

Passaris asserted the gravity of sextortion, defining it as a severe abuse of power where individuals in authority positions coerce others into providing sexual favours.

“Sextortion is eroding the foundational trust in our institutions and causing immense harm to victims,” she stated during a session in Parliament.

Passaris argued that the current legal framework in Kenya lacks specific provisions that recognise sextortion as a form of sexual harassment or exploitation, which significantly hampers effective law enforcement and victim support mechanisms.

Esther Passaris, August 25 2023.
Esther Passaris, August 25 2023.
Esther Passaris

Passaris, who serves as an elected Women's Representative, argued for the urgent need to redefine legal boundaries and protections regarding this matter.

During her passionate appeal to the Public Petitions Committee, Passaris articulated, “We must redefine sexual extortion in our laws, providing clear penalties, support systems for victims, and measures for accountability to eradicate this blight on our society.”

Supporting the petition, Dagoretti North MP Beatrice Elachi demanded broader implications of the amendment, “This is not just about one law but integrating these changes across all relevant legislation to end the expectation of sexual favours for professional or personal advancement.”

Further support came from Naivasha MP, Jayne Wanjiru, who criticised the slow progress of women in terms of integrity in professional realms. “It’s a missed opportunity that this was not included in the initial Sexual Offences Bill,” Wanjiru commented.

Alego Usonga MP Samuel Atandi also added his voice, highlighting the professional stakes involved, “No one should have to compromise their dignity or career over sexual demands.”

The proposed amendments would also affect other laws, such as the Kenya Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act of 2018.

Section 37 of this act, which deals with the misuse of digital platforms for sharing intimate images, is slated for review under the new legislative framework proposed by Passaris.

Further legal details were provided concerning the amendments to Section 18 of the Penal Code relating to trafficking for sexual exploitation. 

Dagoretti North MP Beatrice Elachi.
Dagoretti North MP Beatrice Elachi.
Daily Nation
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