Gender, Accountability& Corruption: Understanding The Linkages

Corruption has been high on the governance reform policy for many decades. It constrains development, and cause conflict and definitely one of the bi

Seven Women Out of 42 Ministerial Nominees Is Condemnable, Just Not Enough-Equity Advocates
Press Release by the Nigerian League of Women Voters
Give Women Opportunity To Lead And Help The Country – Women In Governance Network

Corruption has been high on the governance reform policy for many decades. It constrains development, and cause conflict and definitely one of the biggest obstacles to achieving millennium development goals, if it is not vehemently checked with absolute determination, it will hinder greatly the attainment of sustainable development goals. Corruption has a well known differential impact on the society with poor people especially women as its greatest victim, it reduces resources for poverty alleviation and development which result in deprivation of advancement opportunities for poor people. Unfortunately, sufficient attention has not been paid to differing impact that corruption had on women. Unaddressed questions include;

  1. Do women suffer from corruption than men?
  2. Do women face different forms of corruption than men?
  3. Do answers to this questions support changes in anti-corruption agenda and advocacy strategies?

This article examines the correlation between gender and accountability and corruption, and as well proffer insight that address the above stated questions.

  1. Do women suffer from corruption than men? Development and aid agencies have only begun to conduct research and inquire into the relationship between gender equality issues and corruption in the last twelve (12) years, due to emergence of evidence that corruption can disproportionately affect poor women and girls, particularly in their access to essential public services, justice and security and in their capacity to engage in public decision making. One reason for corruption’s disproportionately negative impact on women is because women form the majority of the global poor. The poor, reliant on publicly provided services, disproportionately suffer when corruption depletes the amount of resources to these services (Schimmel and Pech 2004 Khadragha 2001). In a situation where bribery has become a prerequisite to accessing services, rights and resources, women’s relatively weaker access to and control of personal resources has meant that, they are more frequently denied access to these services. Women’s statistically lower literary level, which often result in relative lack of knowledge of rights and entitlements to services and public programs, leaves them more vulnerable to extortion and abuse of laws (UNNDP 2008A). However, evidence of the incident and cost of corruption to women and poor women in particular is rare; only about one fifth of the tools commonly used to measure corruption explicitly take gender and poverty into consideration (Transparency Internation 2005).

There are four commonly used and internationally accepted corruption measurement tools, all of which are gender blind; none include gender (or sex) as a relevant element. The tools are:

  1. Public Opinion Surveys (Methods to measure perception of corruption such as the ‘Afrobarometer’, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index)
    1. Public-Sector Diagnostics (studies that measure strength and weakness of various governance institutions, sometimes based on citizens perception data.)
    1. Private sector survey (studies of Bribery in private firms)
    1. Multi-country tools (ranking of countries according to how the fare in addressing corruption, using both perception data and the presence or absence of law against corruption such as the new partnership for African development’s African Peer Review mechanisms. (UNDP 2008).

New indicator are needed to capture the gender dimension of corruption, developed and used at the national level. This could be generated easily using existing data source to capture the specific experiences of poorer groups of women and men. For example, an indicator such as Level of trust in the police, easily measured using a household survey, could be made gender-sensitive by adding questions about respondent’s sex and economic status. (UNDP)

      Local stake holders can also use Citizen’s Report Card (CRC) to capture the incidence of corruption on women and other group. CRC, gather experience based data to determine the percentage of service users that encounter corruption or to determine the average bribe paid. Disaggregating this information by sex or income level will give a clearer picture of how women and men differ in the average amount of bribe paid or requested and the frequency in which they encounter corruption. CRC merely reports on where corruption has occurred with the expectation that public authorities will rectify the situation (Goetz and Jenkins 1999)

  • Do women face different forms of corruption than men? Depending on the extent of government’s failure to be accountable to women citizens, corruption may impact women access to public services and resources in various ways such as barriers to accessing basic public services, sexual extortion, reduction of women’s access to market and credit and reinforcement of women’s social and economic marginalization.

Women’s dependence on public services means that corruption can have the debilitating impact on their lives. For example, case study evidence shows that poor women are often forced to pay bribes to public services providers in health, education, judiciary, etc. For example, in Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, government policy has it that medical services for pregnant women is free at public hospitals, unfortunately, health personnel are reliably noted for demanding for bribes from pregnant women before they can access such health services. In judiciary, official fees for affidavit is within the range of N10.00 to N200.00, but personnel at judiciary usually ask for the amount in excess of N2,000.00. In Educational sector, cases of sexual extortion are reportedly going on in secondary school and tertiary institutions, particularly the university. For example, report has it that teachers and lecturers respectively tend to ask female student for sex before they can pass their exams or be made to fail the exam.

Corruption in the business regulation sector affects women entrepreneur assess to market and credit. Ironically, women’s remoteness from some anti-corruption network reinforces their social and economic marginalization. In addition to other barriers women may face as entrepreneurs, corruption imposes restriction on the ability to conduct businesses. Onerous “speed money” payment can allow entrepreneurs to by-pass regulations for obtaining business license or evade complex legal requirements for forming a company – yet women often lack the resources necessary to make this payment like information about business services available or knowledge of the means of negotiating against corrupt networks (Ellis and Blackdem 2006). This marginalization has implication for women’s perception and awareness of corruption and engagement on anti-corruption effort.

  • Do women and men perceive corruption differently? Transparency International global corruption barometer, which compiles public opinion survey from approximately 54,000 individuals in 69 countries, asks citizens how corruption affects their lives and business. Responses are scored according to people’s perception of corruption in public services and political, judiciary and market institution (transparency Internation 2005) UNIFEM 2008 analysis of this data explore gender differences in perception and found a statistically significant differences between women and men in almost all regions of the world with women generally perceiving higher level of corruption than men. Differences in perception are almost significant in the areas of services provision notably for education, medical services and utilities. Evidence support the findings that women may perceive the problems of corruption to be more acute than men do. Analyzing the gender differences in individual data about accountability of different forms of corruption, Swamy et al (2000) concludes that there is a worldwide gender differences in tolerance for corruption.


  1. Application of the rule of law in advancing rights and providing protections from abuse can be enhanced by countries domestic accountability systems to prosecute perpetration of corruptions,  gender equalities must be ensured to enhance protection of women’s civil and political right through access to fair trail particularly for gender based offences.
  2. Access to decision-making, including women’s political participation in governance. Debate about the relationship between gender and corruption in politics often focus on whether having more women in public office curbs corruption. Those that support this theory argue that women are less prone to corruption because they are either innately or socialized to be less corrupt than men. In Nigeria, high profile efforts to appoint women to senior government position have been framed in terms of tackling grand corruption. Corruption in the country’s mining industry and food and drug Association also reportedly declined under the leadership of women in both instances (ABA – UNDP 2008). Situation where political parties lack internal democratic mechanism, candidate are often selected on the basis of their ability to mobilize patrons particularly male network for resources needed to finance an election. Women attempting to enter politics may face demand for sex from male party member in exchange for opportunities to run for offices, a sexual form of corruption or extortion that women are more likely to encounter than men. (Goetz 2007, Iwanaga 2005).

Similarly, candidate with access to money and power typically men have the advantage of being able to bribe voters directly with food, cash and clothing. These are evidences that indicate that corruption blocks women’s access to politics in both parliament and public offices. In order to encourage women’s participation in politics and decision making. Political parties must have a clear stand out mechanism for internal democracy. There must be a statutory law and constitutional provision for women participation in politics which will check men’s capacity to dominate political participation thereby sustaining women’s increase in politics.

  • UNDP Global Thematic Programs on Anti-corruption for development effectiveness: Entry points on gender and corruption
    • Advisory support for capacity development of government stakeholders on integrating gender into anti-corruption interventions, activities, national plans and strategies.
    • Support to develop gender-disaggregated, nationally-owned corruption measurement and diagnostic tools.
    • Development of methodology to incorporate both anti-corruption and gender issue in development process such as United Nation Development Assistance framework and SDG-based development strategies, and poverty reduction strategy papers.
    • Capacity Development of Civil Society and media, such as supporting community level women’s movement (e.g. Women Journalists Network and women network against corruption.
    • Gender balanced, awareness-raising campaign against corruption.
    • Development and dissemination of knowledge products on how corruption affects women and men differently (e.g. corruption in service delivery)


A common theme across all approaches is the need for more information on how corruption affect different social groups. This article has demonstrated that corruption is not gender-neutral in its effect, and much is revealed about women’s relationship to accountability and corruption by an analysis of their experience with corruption, much is revealed about the pragmatic means of combating corruption which recognize that women have a great deal to contribute to improving the quality of governance and effectiveness of public accountability.