An interesting perspective from Africa on why men are more likely to engage in corruption (steal public funds) than women got me thinking – is corruption gender neutral?
Chr. Michelsen Institute’s Anti-Corruption Resource Center provides an excellent overview of various works on gender dimensions of corruption from many different perspectives. The arguments that women’s participation in politics leads to lower levels of corruption are counterbalanced by papers that call it a “myth in the making.”
Empirical/experimental studies, such as this one comparing Indonesia, India, Australia and Singapore, provide some interesting insights as well: for the most part, there are no statistically significant differences in how women and men view corruption or behave in instances of bribe-giving and bribe-taking. One difference comes out in the bribe and punishment amounts – in India, for instance, men offer larger bribes than women, but in Indonesia, men levy higher punishment amounts for corruption than women. But these are just minor deviations.
Yet, while the attitudes toward corruption may be similar among men and women, women can be negatively affected by corruption to a greater degree. This follows not from some specific gender dimensions of corruption, but rather from broader institutional and cultural barriers to participation that women face in countries around the world (such as access to justice, schooling, or decision-making structures). This Transparency International brief lays out numerous reasons for why corruption in the service delivery sector negatively affects women and girls more so than men.
It is an accepted wisdom within the anti-corruption community that corruption disproportionately affects the poor. In part, making the argument is instrumental in mobilizing the poor not to participate in corruption and seek ways to combat it in all forms. Perhaps, the fact that corruption disproportionately affects women can become a way to mobilize them to become a force in the anti-corruption movement.