At the beginning of December, the international day against corruption is usually celebrated, an effort by the United Nations and ONG to raise awareness about this practice
The corruption that generates inequality worldwide usually comes with preconceived ideas in mind, such as that men are more corrupt than women. The truth is that no scientific study legitimizes one truth or another. Everything seems to indicate that it has more to do with perception and that, depending on the context, women, just like men, are prone to corruption. However, something very certain is that even though women are not directly responsible for corruption, they are the most affected.
Because women and girls are more than a half the world's population, it is for the same reasons that the largest proportion of the population is in poverty. Hence, corruption becomes an impediment to gender equality and female empowerment, and it is 5 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
In cases where women remain the main caregivers in the family, they can regularly face corruption when accessing public services such as health, education, water, and hygiene. They are forced to pay bribes for basic goods, which can mean a high percentage of their income compared to that of men, thus reinforcing the vicious cycle of poverty. There is also evidence that the exploitation of the body for sexual or other purposes can be used as a bargaining chip in corruption.
The cases show situations of so-called petty corruption in which money is not the bargaining chip, but rather the provision of personal or sexual services. The phenomenon occurs to access services such as education, justice, health, and various procedures on which women are more dependent, either personally or as caregivers for their family nucleus.
Another aspect to be dealt with that increases corruption and harms women is, for example, the hierarchical power relations between bosses or subordinates, such as the teacher-student relationship, or the gender stereotypes that socially and culturally have subjected women. To have endowed with a sexual charge.
In countries like Afghanistan, Guinea, Kenya, the Philippines, and Zambia, according to UN reports, women have suffered rape, physical violence, kidnapping, and even death by criminal organizations associated with corrupt agents to prevent their participation in politics.
However, the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women does show positive progress in the area of corruption. On the one hand, there are already several countries that have hired women in the public and transit forces to counteract bad practices, forms of discrimination, and gender violence, as well as eradicate harmful practices, such as child and forced marriage or female genital mutilation.
In the public sector, evidence indicates that the presence of women in the elected office improves the allocation of public resources and increases the likelihood that the interests of women and children will be represented among legislative priorities. Not to mention the positive effect on girls of seeing brave and empowered women in executive and senior positions.
Women's need for reproductive health services can leave them at the mercy of corrupt health providers. Children can be deprived of education all together when families cannot pay school fees, which can be artificially increased by demanding bribes.
Female grassroots employees ranked businesses and jobs as the second most likely service to ask for illegitimate payments, after the public sector. Vulnerable groups in society are often subjected to bribes and sexual favors in exchange for employment or paperwork, which hinders their ability to earn more or maintain their business.
Some studies suggest that publicly traded companies with a greater number of women in decision-making positions perform better in terms of ethics, levels of corruption, and financial returns. This suggests that increasing the proportion of women in male-dominated workplaces or public institutions could disrupt entrenched corruption. However, more research is needed to fully understand the underlying causes of this effect.
Although several sectors favor a gender approach in anti-corruption strategies, in line with the conclusions of the recent VIII Summit of the Americas, in which it was agreed to "promote gender equity and equality and the empowerment of women as a transversal objective of our anti-corruption policies”. The feminization of anti-corruption strategies is desirable up to a point and is not entirely positive in the long run. Among other reasons, it perpetuates stereotypes of the roles expected of this genre.
Women are positive agents for change in the fight against this crime. More research is needed to examine the different ways in which people are affected by corruption and how anti-corruption programs affect women and men.