Giving up your body to enter fortress Europe: Understanding the gendered experiences of sextortion of Nigerians migrating to the Netherlands

Loes van Heugten, Ashleigh Bicker Caarten & Ortrun Merkle


Corruption is a frequent companion of irregular migrants along their journey, however, as they often have little financial resources available or deplete them quickly along the difficult route, paying for monetary bribes can be difficult. Therefore, this paper analyses the occurrence of a non]financial form of corruption, i.e. sextortion. Sextortion is a largely unexplored form of corruption in which sexual favours function as means of payment. To establish a better understanding of the occurrence of sextortion, this paper explores the gendered experiences of this form of corruption for Nigerians migrating to the Netherlands.

The paper is based on interviews with experts on migration, gender and corruption in the Nigerian and Dutch context. The results show that Nigerian migrants are most vulnerable to encounter sextortion in Nigeria, Libya, Niger, and Italy. The extortion of sexual favours often occurs in addition to financial bribes, making it not the primary purpose of the exchange, but not underplaying its importance. While women are most often seen as the survivors of sextortion, also men and nonbinary individuals are at risk to encounter sextortion. Besides gender, the results indicate that age, economic situation, and the availability of a social network influence a migrantfs vulnerability. Furthermore, Nigerian migrants often experience different sources of pressure to succeed their journeys which take away the element of choice when encountering sextortion.

JEL Clasification: D73,F22,F59

Keywords: Sextortion, Migration, Corruption, Gender]based and sexual violence, Nigeria, South]North Migration, EU Migration Policy

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