What evidence exists to support the argument that women suffer more as a result of corruption than men? It is plausible to believe that women suffer more and differently than men as a result of the distinction between indirect and direct victimization. A assessment of the limited evidence on corruption’s direct effects qualifies this assertion to some extent. Nonetheless, addressing the core causes of corruption’s gendered repercussions requires a general reduction in gender inequality. Gender programs might benefit from an anti-corruption lens, and anti-corruption programming should include an understanding of inequalities in gender exposure and vulnerability to corruption.
When analyzing corruption, it’s critical to look beyond monetary transactions, as demonstrated in this sexual extortion scenario:
A teen girl in a Sierra Leone refugee camp asks the camp administration for the food, soap, and medicine that she is entitled to and requires to survive. He falsely claims that “your name is not on the list,” but instead of demanding money, as is typical of corruption, he demands sex, which she has no choice but to comply with.
The story is a tragic reflection of the situation in many refugee camps throughout the world. It’s a classic case of extortion of sexual favors, and the victims are almost always women and girls. Do examples like this, however, allow for the conclusion that women are more vulnerable to corruption in general? Academic research on this topic is limited and primarily based on plausible arguments and anecdotal or contextual evidence. According to the research, women are more vulnerable than men. However, a comprehensive research should take into account factors other than gender, such as income levels, society type, and urban vs. rural settings.
Why is it assumed that women suffer more from corruption than men? Corruption can affect individuals directly or indirectly. Many unscrupulous practices have no identifiable victims. The harm is caused by their negative externalities, such as poor school quality caused by corrupt administrators. When corrupt payments or favors are extorted, however, someone is directly harmed. Bribes or favors can be extorted whenever a public official or agency has the choice to refuse a due service or levy an unreasonable cost. The question of which gender suffers the most is empirical. The data available is limited, yet it offers some unexpected outcomes.
Women’s chances of being direct victims of corruption – usually through extortion – can be explained by either their level of corruption risk or their gender traits. Whether men or women are more likely to become victims of corruption is determined by two factors:
Which gender is more vulnerable to the threat of corruption? This is frequently determined by who in the family has more direct contact with the government or lacks political or social protection from abuse.
The first question is purely statistical, reflecting existing social, economic, political, and legal gender disparities. The gender of the second question is very clear. It cannot be overstated in this context that corruption is not limited to the exchange of money. Corruption can also take the shape of sexual extortion and sexual favors – often known as voluntary quid pro quos.
If a given activity is traditionally a male role in a community, men will be more exposed to corruption associated with that occupation. Men, rather than women, are more likely to be victimized in absolute terms. Who is more likely to be subjected to extortion by traffic cops, for example? The answer is most likely related to who is more inclined to drive rather than their gender.
Women, on the other hand, may still be disproportionately vulnerable. In comparison to men, this would result in a higher number of women being victimized. According to evidence from Uganda’s private sector, women are disproportionately targeted by corrupt authorities, despite the fact that the sector is dominated by men (Ellis, Manuel and Blackden 2006). In such circumstances, women’s greater relative vulnerability necessitates some explanation other than exposure. Are women seen to be more forgiving victims? What is the source of this impression? Is it true that women have less power as a result of gender disparities in access to education, justice, and job opportunities? Is there a lack of protection for women from social networks, as shown by a Sri Lankan survey (TI Sri Lanka 2014)?
Examining the health and education sectors (see, for example, UNDP 2014) can help understand some of the gender variations in direct corruption victimization:
Pregnancy and the responsibility for their children’s health care means that women spend more time in the health system, increasing their vulnerability to extortion (TI 2010). Many of them lack the financial means to pay bribes, and as a result, they are either denied access to services or forced to rely on sexual favors. Gender has an impact on pregnancy. Gender patterns and inequities influence how we care for children’s health.
Except in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, where they are exposed to sexual extortion by superiors and during selection processes, women dominate the teaching profession in elementary education (UNESCO 2010). Official and social audits in Honduras found a pattern of extorting sex in exchange for teaching jobs (Transformemos Honduras 2010). Mothers are often in charge of their children’s school business, and therefore may be more vulnerable to extortion of bribes for school admittance, etc.
Other sectors, such as justice and water, show similar tendencies. Women typically dominate the informal industry (ILO 2002). As a result, they are more vulnerable to extortion by governmental officials in charge of overseeing connected operations.
Many places with high corruption risks have a female predominance, making them more vulnerable to corruption in absolute terms. Women may also be disproportionately targeted for sexual extortion and favors, or for other reasons by corrupt officials. If both logics are active at the same moment, the effect may be amplified.
Even if corruption does not always directly damage someone, its externalities usually do, affecting third parties such as the general public, taxpayers, specific professions, or communities. It’s difficult to know whether women suffer disproportionately as a result of corruption’s indirect impacts. Nonetheless, there are arguments that support the notion that women are more affected by corruption’s indirect impacts.
To begin with, corruption stifles economic growth and perpetuates or exacerbates poverty. According to UN statistics, women make up the majority of the poor (70 percent according to the 1995 Human Development Report). Even though the estimate has been questioned (Chant 2008) since poverty indicators are measured at the household level and are not gender disaggregated, the basic fact that women outnumber males among the poor is likely to be true. As a result, it is feasible to conclude that when corruption obstructs growth, women suffer more than men.
Second, the poor are more reliant on government services, which are frequently harmed by corruption (GTZ 2004). Public procurement and contracting corruption frequently results in higher pricing, worse quality services, or both. Because women are more likely to have lower income, increasing costs have a greater impact on them than on males. This situation complicates the issues in the education and health care sectors even more: corruption may deplete funding for public services that women rely on more than men.
Third, political and major administrative corruption may perpetuate gender inequalities, such as discrimination against women in terms of resources, political participation(*3), and access to high-ranking jobs in government. Sundstrom and Wängnerud (2013) use data from European countries to illustrate that the level of corruption and government ineffectiveness has a large and negative impact on the number of women elected to local councils. Male-dominated decision-making has the potential to have even more far-reaching repercussions, as fewer resources may be devoted to government policies and programs that benefit women.
Finally, more than 80% of human trafficking victims are women and girls who are sold as slaves or prostitutes, forced into marriages, or used in the organ trade (GTZ 2004). Such unlawful activities are facilitated by corrupt police, customs personnel, and politicians in the nations of origin, transit, and destination. Despite the fact that the fraudulent agreement does not directly involve women as parties, they are indisputably the ones who suffer the most.