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Are Women More Susceptible to Corruption than Men?

Sabina Panth's picture

The gender dimensions of corruption have typically been approached from the point of view of whether women are less corrupt than men and whether women are disproportionately affected by corruption. While the concept of women inherently possessing a higher level of integrity has been challenged, studies have confirmed that women do indeed bear significant negative consequences from corruption, at least in fragile states and weak institutional settings.  In an article published on Transparency International's Anti-Corruption Research Network, Farzana Nawaz discusses these issues, the highlights of which I will cover in this blog. 

Studies have shown that there is indeed a link between higher representation of women in public institutions and lower levels of corruption.  But this correlation could stem from ‘fairer systems’ and democratic institutions that promote gender equality and tender more effective systems for checks on corruption.  Gender roles can also be a factor in women’s lesser involvement in corruption. Women typically have greater responsibility for child care and this can make them risk-averse and thereby more reluctant to engage in corrupt activities. Women’s limited participation in the public sphere also makes them more likely to be excluded from networks that propagate corrupt activities. 

Studies have found that corruption has a profound impact on women’s access to resources, particularly public services.  As primary caretakers for families, women have greater need for essential services such as health, education, water and sanitation.  As a vulnerable group globally, women are less likely to be aware of their entitlement. Generally speaking, their income level is also lower and they lack influence to seek alternatives to bribes.  Often, these impediments result in women receiving poor quality services or rather simply being denied from accessing essential services. For instance, in Bangalore, India, one of every two women in maternity hospitals had to pay extra money for a physician to be present at the birth of their child.  After childbirth, the research found that a staggering 70% of patients were asked to pay to see their own babies.  In another case, 22 percent of female secondary school students in Bangladesh were found paying fee to register for a stipend program for which they were entitled to enroll for free. 

When women are compelled to bribe, it generally takes the form of sexual favors.  According to Ms. Nawaz, some of the most serious evidence of sexual extortion for access to services can be found in cases of sexual abuse in schools.  For example, a survey in Botswana revealed that, of the girls interviewed, 67 percent had been subjected to sexual harassment by teachers and 10 percent had consented to sex for fear of reprisals. When the act results in pregnancy, the impact of corruption on women takes on yet another dimension, since not only are they required to pay “bribes’ in the form of sex but they also run the risk of being expelled from school, thus being deprived of valuable education. 

Farzana Newaz, in her report, recommends that policy interventions to combat systemic corruption on women should pay closer attention to the socio-economic and cultural norms that shape how women live their lives as well as the institutional barriers they face.  Likewise, corruption should be acknowledged as a serious impediment in addressing/achieving gender equity and women’s participation in governance, and since sexual extortion is a specific form of corruption that affects women in widely disproportionate numbers, this should be incorporated in the analysis and measurement of corruption. 

 

Photo Credit: balazsgardi (Flikr User)

 

Comments

Submitted by Monali on
Dear Sabina, I am wondering about the appropriatness of using research study from Bangalore in the context of your article. Your article says that "For instance, in Bangalore, India, one of every two women in maternity hospitals had to pay extra money for a physician to be present at the birth of their child. After childbirth, the research found that a staggering 70% of patients were asked to pay to see their own babies." This statement appears to be just as valid for families, i.e., women, their husbands and the attending family members. This does not necessarily indicate a woman-specific concern. As the research must have included single mothers and families headed by women, it could be interesting to see if there was any significant difference between demands for bribes / willingness to bribe between single women (1), families headed by men (2) and those headed by women (3). On a separate note - not in the context of this article - it might be interesting to see if there is difference in bribes demanded when the newborn is a boy or a girl.

Submitted by Sabina on
Hi Monali, The statistics I have used came from the article on the topic that I consulted for the post. (I have provided a link to the article in the post, which provides detail references). Hope this helps.

Submitted by Meera on
This is an interesting point that you have raised about women having to dole out sexual favors by way of "bribe". This stems from the whole patriarchal issue about a woman's body being her only resource. While corruption itself is something really bad and unhealthy, the issue of seeking and submitting to demands of sexual favors is a step higher. Ofcourse much of this goes unreported and therefore we may not really have the relevant statistics needed. But wherever such reports do come in as in the case of the teachers in Botswana it is ironical that the very people under whose care girls are during their days in school should exploit them!! Again an abuse of power! Therefore, when a woman submits to demands for sexual favors it should be viewed differently and not clubbed under corruption- it should be termed sexual exploitation and abuse!

Submitted by Vineet Mehta on
Dear Sabina, Your article is a good read. My comment is in reference to below: "...higher representation of women in public institutions and lower levels of corruption. But this correlation could stem from ‘fairer systems’ and democratic institutions that promote gender equality and tender more effective systems for checks on corruption..." Do you know any examples (anywhere in the world) where women were empowered to reduce corruption or increase transparency in developing or under developed nations? Thanks a lot.

Submitted by nisha on
In my view, 'more or less' is not a valid debate. Nor is the idea that when women are compelled to bribe, it generally takes the form of sexual favours. I have touched upon some of the issues you have raised here in the following blogs: http://chhayapath.blogspot.com/2011/02/matter-of-opportunity-and-access.html http://chhayapath.blogspot.com/2011/08/equality-in-corruption-myth-or-reality.html These are based my observations and experiences in my work life.

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