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Gender and Corruption

Gender and Corruption

In the recent debates surrounding corruption, I can’t help but ask myself if women are less corrupt than men, and whether encouraging women to hold top positions is an accurate anti-corruption strategy. Is there a gender difference in tolerance for corruption? Really, does corruption have a gender? I was at the hair dresser’s last week, and I met this lady who was telling us a story about how her daughter got into the highly competitive and sought after National School of Administration and Magistracy (ENAM). Background information: ENAM is hot cake in Cameroon for graduate and post—graduate degree holders. Long story short, she said she was ready to sell her home and bribe the school authorities to enable her daughter gain admission. Her daughter was finally admitted, I don’t wanna know how. Now, that was my small study, but lets make reference to a study carried out by Transparency International, a Non-Governmental Organization that monitors and publicizes corporate and political corruption in international development. This study sampled 60.000 households in over 60 countries and found that women are less likely to take bribes or condone bribe taking. Another study by the World Bank of 150 countries across Europe, Africa and Asia, revealed that women are more trustworthy leaders and less likely to be involved in acts of corruption. As empirical as it is, I am tempted to think however that because women have not held great positions in the past, they have not been in a position to be corrupt. So yeah, If women and men held equitable decision making positions in the past, would women be just as corrupt? Corruption. In my country, this is probably the most used word after “poverty”. Just few years back, the president launched a campaign to cleanse government agencies of white collar bandits. And when we think corruption, we think well… men. Because let’s face it, more men have been accused of corruption and embezzlement of public funds in the past than women. In Cameroon a few ministers and high profile Government authorities accused of embezzlement were women, (less than 20%), and that’s also because less than 20% of Cameroon’s ministers are women. So maybe, just maybe if the reverse were true and more women were ministers, more women ministers would be in jail for corruption. But let’s keep government aside for a second here. Governments are made of individual citizens, so the citizen must be corrupt first, before a government gets corrupt yeah? Long before corruption became a huge debate in the public sphere and on the national platform, little did we know that in 1998 Transparency International would publish a list of 85 most corrupt countries with Cameroon topping the list. Followed by two not so flattering nations; Paraguay and Honduras. Well in Cameroon, let’s face it, corruption is in our core. Right inside of us. If not, how do we explain the phenomenon of tipping police officials every time we don’t have our ID cards on us? How do we explain the frequent acts by drivers of public transportation, giving policemen “beer” for incomplete car documents? Well, the bittersweet news is when you get involved with huge government money, you’re not even given the option to resign. Straight to jail, then another decade before you get a trial!! Including women. Well, let’s look at it in the academic arena. I’ve been a college student before, and in my university, it was very common to have girls sleep with lecturers and professors as some form of bribe for pass grades or more marks. Usually, no one’s being hurt. It’s her body, and she can use it as she pleases. Now, is that corruption? By a woman? I remember when we would do group studies prior to exams during my days at journalism school. My professor Enoh Tanjong would say “ Your country is on the top of Transparency international’s corruption list. So for those of you who have not traveled out of Cameroon yet, get ready for thorough airport checks” Well, thank God I didn’t ever travel during that period, but hey, I did just a year back, and I had no thorough checks. So yeah, we’ve moved down that ladder. But clearly, corruption tends to affect women more than men given the fact that corruption has a more devastating effect on vulnerable groups including women especially regarding public services like health. Corruption is and remains to be a global issue today. Without undermining the tons of research already existing on gender and corruption, as advocates we should take in to account the role of such study results in informing policy. Until we identify the complexities in gender dimensions regarding corruption, policy interventions may end up being narrowly construed. Research on corruption and follow-up policy needs to recognize and mainstream gender as a huge factor in anti-corruption strategies.
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About The Author

Mallah leads the team at UV and her job entails opening up the organisation to new ideas and opportunities. An unapologetic feminist, go getter and lover of lives, Mallah envisages a world where women wouldn't need to fight for their rights any more.In her spare time, she sings and listens to all of ...

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