Corruption holds back gender equality

Photo feat. Navodinee Wickramanayake, taken by Eugene BW - Corruption and gender equality

Gender equality is achieved when all genders have equal rights, quality of life, and access to resources and opportunities to create the life they desire, and the possibility to contribute back to society. Unfortunately, we are still far from achieving gender equality, and one of the causes behind that can be traced to corruption.

Gender inequality and corruption go hand in hand in many ways, and enhance each other. It can also be noted that corruption hampers development and economic growth, especially in developing countries, and where corruption and gender inequalities are higher, development slows down.  Corruption also has different effects in different levels of society, and has genuinely a greater impact on those who suffer from poverty, whether its from grand corruption or petty corruption. That applies especially those who don’t know their rights and can therefore not fight for them.

Corruption takes on many forms, and affects all genders. However, it takes on different forms between the genders, especially where the gender gap is wider. In many developing countries, bribery is a daily occurrence, and is a way to access various necessities, sometimes even education or health services. When women can’t afford bribes, they tend to be subject to sexual and physical abuse, and women’s lower position in certain societies causes them to be more vulnerable to such injustice.

It is estimated that more than 80% of the victims of human trafficking are women and girls sold as slaves or prostitutes, forced into marriages, or used for organ trade. Corrupt police, custom officers, and politicians in the countries of origin, transit, and destination facilitate such illegal activities. Even though the corrupt deal does not directly involve the women as parties, they undeniably suffer the most harm.

Corruption also effects women’s chances of getting ahead career wise in jobs, politics and entering decision-making bodies. This leads to women having less chances of impacting issues that affect them, sustaining the vicious cycle. Corruption also makes it harder for women to fight against them being violated, and human trafficking is one example of that. Therefor a transparent, conclusive, and culturally appropriate policies, taking the gendered impact in account, must be developed in order for gender equality to enhance. 

Furthermore, corruption in international trade and certain trade policies have proven to favour groups of people with stronger political ties, and that allows them to receive preferential treatment from the ruling government. Further research has proven that firms facing a lower discriminatory-treatment parameter enjoy higher profitability, and due to women’s lack of advancement in certain fields and social restrictions, they tend to be on the higher discriminatory end of the equation. Looking into corruption in trade, findings suggest that where corruption is more prevalent in international trade, gender equality tends to be lower and women are worse affected by the corrupt practices. Research also provides evidence that corruption is hampering gender equality in various locations.

It is therefore clear that by increasing transparency and eliminating the possibility for nepotism and other favouritism, gender equality and development can be reached at a faster pace. 

While corruption continues to hamper development, equality will never truly be achieved; whether it be gendered, the rich and the poor or continental. In order to fully understand the misdistribution in our society, we must look at it from every possible angle, and never give up. It is thanks to the people that have so vigorously fought for transparency, gender equality, and peace, that we have reached to where we are today.

However, in spite of the improvements that have been made and increased awareness among people, there is still a long way to go, and we must never give up the fight for what we believe is right in order to achieve a more equal world where women, and people of all genders, can thrive together. 

This blog was originally published for The Better Tomorrow Movement in 2017. 

Rut Einarsdóttir is a SOAS Digital Ambassador and Operations Manager for SCRAP Weapons, a project for global disarmament in the CISD Department at SOAS, currently pursuing a MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development.

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