Gender and Corruption: are women less corrupt?

Women are less likely to pay bribes but are more disadvantaged in corrupt systems. Corruption has a disproportunately negative effect on women, says Transparency International

Issued by Transparency International Secretariat



Higher levels of women`s participation in public life are associated with lower levels of corruption.

Corruption is less severe where women comprise a larger share of parliamentary seats, a study by the IRIS Centre, University of Maryland reveals. This statement has also been underlined by a World Bank study on "Corruption and women in government". The study concludes that higher rates of female participation in government are associated with lower levels of corruption. It is suggested that women may have higher standards of ethical behaviour and appear to be more concerned with the common good.

In the light of this, a new all-female squad of uniformed patrols has been set up in Mexico last year in the hope of curbing corruption. In northern Mexico (Cuernavaca), the number of women police officers has been increased in the expectation that they would be more honest.

Women in business seem less likely to pay bribes.

A survey of enterprise owners and managers in the Republic of Georgia indicates that firms owned or managed by women pay bribes on approximately 5 % of occasions when coming into contact with a government agency. The percentage is twice as high for firms with a male owner or manager (11%).

While women are less involved in corruption themselves, they are even more disadvantaged from the consequences of a corrupt system.

Gender-Sensitive Budget Analysis proves that men profit much more from public expenditures than women. In many countries, the allocation for programmes focusing on women is only a fraction of the total national budget. In Argentina and in the Dominican Republic, the grant for women`s programmes budget amounts to 0.0046% and 0.002% of the total national budget, respectively.

Corruption decreases national budget resources. It also reduces, for example, the amount of public spending on health and social security, which affects women disproportionately. If there is a cut in public spending, maternal and child health services are more likely to be the worst-hit victims. One survey carried out by the TI chapter of Bangladesh shows that it is harder for female headed households to get their children into school or to get themselves hospital care.

"A corrupt legal system reinforces existing gender discrimination in many countries. Women`s civil rights are grossly unfair with regard to marriage/divorce, family law, child custody, financial independence and inheritance and property rights. Often they have no ability to make decisions without the consent of a male relative", stresses Roslyn Hees, Senior Advisor with Transparency International. In many countries, those who win cases tend to be involved with corrupt prosecutors and judges. Women simply do not have the means to compete in this way. Corrupt judicial procedures and the prevalence of "old boys networks" makes it in many cases impossible for women to win legal battles in a transparent and open way.


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