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Women and corruption in Latin America & the Caribbean

Over the last decade, women across Latin America and the Caribbean have been speaking out in ever greater numbers in support of equal rights for women and girls.

From Argentina to Costa Rica and Brazil to Mexico, women are marching for reproductive health, demanding action for #MeToo and building a strong and dynamic women’s movement to make their voices heard.

New research

While existing research shows some forms of corruption disproportionately affect women, historically there has been little data on how.

The release of the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Latin America and the Caribbean is an important step for understanding how corruption affects women.

For the first time, the GCB highlights data on sexual extortion, or sextortion, one of the most significant forms of gendered corruption. It also presents new data on women’s experiences of bribery.

Access to public services

As primary caretakers for their families, women are often dependent on public services, which also makes them more vulnerable to certain types of bribery.

Sextortion

When sex is the currency of the bribe, evidence points towards a gender bias that particularly affects women; some women are coerced to provide sexual favours in order to receive public services, including health care and education.

In the 18 countries surveyed, the results found that one in five people experiences sexual extortion – or sextortion – when accessing a government service, like health care or education, or knows someone who has.

Data also shows 71 percent of people think that sextortion happens at least occasionally.

What do women think about corruption?

Women have distinct views on corruption, whether it’s a growing problem and what the government is doing about it.

Women not taken seriously when reporting corruption

In several countries, a majority of people think that complaints made by men are more likely to result in action than those made by women.

Women paint a bleak picture

Women are sceptical when it comes to reporting corruption and whether ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.

  • Women are less likely to think ordinary people can make a difference to stop corruption
  • Women are less likely to think people can report corruption without fear of retaliation
  • Women are less likely to think appropriate action will be taken once corruption is reported
  • Women are less likely to know about their right to request information from public institutions

Recommendations

While the data presents a grim reality of women’s views and experiences of corruption in Latin America and the Caribbean, the past decade has shown that when women have come together to demand change, they have succeeded in countries across the region.

To advance equal rights for women and girls, government leaders across the region should:

  • Develop legislation to confront and end sextortion and ensure justice systems have the right tools to address sextortion cases.
  • Collect, analyse and disseminate gender data on corruption.
  • Support women’s participation in public and political life.
  • Include women in anti-corruption decision-making.
  • Empower women to report abuse and ensure that the mechanisms to do so are gender-sensitive.

What we’re doing

Transparency International works with 17 chapters across Latin America and the Caribbean to advocate for women at the highest levels of government and among global, regional and national policymakers.

In addition, 10 chapters recently began a multi-country research project to review legislative frameworks related to sextortion, identify improvements and make policy recommendations.

In Guatemala, our chapter, Acción Ciudadana, trains women leaders in tackling corruption, exercising social audits, and other forms of advocacy and citizen participation.

In Peru, our chapter, Proética, conducts research to better understand the linkages between gender and corruption at a national level.

In Argentina and Mexico, we also conduct case studies to evaluate the impact that women in politics have on anti-corruption efforts.

What you can do

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