Sextortion in access to WASH services in selected regions of Bangladesh

Ortrun Merkle, Umrbek Allakulov & Debora Gonzalez


This paper investigates the incidence and risk factors associated with sextortion in accessing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services by women in selected regions of Bangladesh. Sextortion is defined as "the abuse of power to obtain a sexual favor" (IAWJ, 2012, p.9) and takes place at the intersection of corruption and sexual violence. The paper analyses original data from a standardized survey, alongside key informant interviews and focus group discussions collected in 2021 in four areas of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is an interesting case study as the WASH sector is still dominated by men and gender based violence is wide spread (World Bank, 2019). The data shows that 15% of women had experienced sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) when accessing water, toilets or bathing facilities. About one third (29.4%) of these cases were a form of sextortion. Sextortion incidents most commonly occurred in the WASH facilities themselves. The data also highlights several risk factors of experiencing sextortion such as poverty, relying on unprotected water sources and lack of literacy. The research clearly highlights the need for further study of compounding risk factors and the importance of including sextortion considerations into WASH programmes. The paper also provides insights into perceptions about sextortion and reasons why those affected may opt not to report incidents.

Keywords: Sextortion, WASH, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, Bangladesh, Corruption

JEL Classification: N55, Q25, D73, H4, K38, K42

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