This paper investigates how corruption in the provision of basic services can increase gender inequalities. Corruption in health and education provision can have disproportionate and negative consequences for women and girls. It can compromise their access to quality schools and clinics, their own social and economic empowerment, and their country’s prospects for economic and social development. Mainstreaming gender in anti-corruption work ensures that women are represented at all stages of service delivery and thus less vulnerable to corruption.
Some forms of corruption in public services, such as health and education, are specific to women and girls. This may take the form of petty corruption, where women and girls are compelled to make informal payments for services that are supposed to free, or through the use of sex as a form of payment in return for public services. It may also be less direct where existing inequalities and patriarchal structures are exploited to commit abuses.
Corruption reinforces existing systematic discrimination that women and girls face in education, justice, health care, employment and the control of assets. Further:
- Women and girls lack access to resources are so are not asked for payments and are therefore left without access to services, or that any bribe paid represents a higher proportion of their personal income.
- Women are the main users of health and education facilities due to their role as primary carers and their need for health support during their reproductive years. Consequently, women are disproportionately exposed to corruption.
- They have less representation in civil service and administrative positions, and government processes are deliberately misrepresented.
- They have fewer opportunities to inform policymakers of their needs, to influence decision-making and to demand accountability from public officials.
- Existing social and institutional gender inequalities mean that women are less able to access channels to correct failures in service delivery.
Mainstreaming gender in anti-corruption work ensures that women are adequately represented at all stages of service delivery. It also increases the likelihood of opportunities to promote women’s participation and to strengthen their voice in the planning, management and oversight of public services. Additional steps towards a deeper understanding of gender dynamics and impacts of corruption include:
- Further research to provide reliable gender disaggregated data. This would help fill significant gaps in knowledge on the engendered effects of corruption in service delivery.
- Gender responsive budgeting, which could be promoted as a means to encourage government spending on public services that is responsive to women’s needs.
- The integration of women into service-based workforces, which can help reduce gender-specific forms of corruption and provide positive role models for young women.
- Codes of conduct and the provision of ethical training for public officials, which can promote increased gender sensitivity in service delivery and foster antipathy for corruption.
- The sensitisation of the monitoring and review mechanisms of international and regional anti-corruption conventions to gender-specific issues.