New Vision (Kampala)

13 February 2013

Uganda: Are Women Less Corrupt Than Men?

It is almost a cliche that getting more women into power is a good way to tackle corruption. Women, the argument goes, are less likely to take bribes or put personal gain before public good.

Several studies show that there is indeed a link between higher representation of women in government and lower levels of corruption. An influential study of 150 countries in Europe, Africa and Asia by the World Bank in 1999, for example, came to the conclusion that women are more trustworthy and less prone to corruption.

However, critics challenge the idea that women inherently possess greater integrity. They argue that this idea fails to account for the fact that despite emancipation, there are still less women in leadership positions, so their corruption scandals would go on unnoticed.

"It goes down to one's character, not gender," says a male legislator, who prefers anonymity.

Another says: "Ministers Kabakumba Matsiko and Syda Bbumba were fired because of some nasty scandals. Aren't they women?"

Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer, an annual survey of more than 60,000 households in over 60 countries, has consistently found that women are less likely than men to pay bribes, or to condone bribe taking, leading to the conclusion that there is a "gender difference in tolerance for corruption".

A deeper look shows the connection between gender and corruption is more complex than the cliche suggests.

It is not that women are purer than men or immune to greed.

Rather, the link appears to be that women are more likely to rise to positions of power in open and democratic political systems. Such societies are generally more intolerant of wrongdoing, including the abuse of power and siphoning of public money.

"It is not about having more women in politics and saying, 'Ah, that will change everything,'" said Melanne Verveer, the US ambassador for global women's issues. "It is about changing the gender imbalance and then we could do a better job of tackling our problems."

In Lima, Peru, for instance, a field study by Sabrina Karim found that public perceptions of whether bribery was a major problem among traffic police had plummeted in 2012 compared with 14 years earlier. The change came after recruiting 2,500 women to patrol the streets.

India also has seen changes since a 1993 law reserved 30% of seats on village councils for women. The World Bank's annual World Development Report this year credited this change for increasing the provision of clean water, sanitation, schools and other public goods in the villages and for lower levels of corruption.

Any psychology to this?

Laura Aryijuka, a part-time lecturer of counselling and psychology at Kyambogo University, says women's particular role in society, which entrusts them with the care of children and elders in the family, makes them scared to take risk.

"She thinks about the future of her children, or her family, when she is detained," says Aryijuka." A man thinks of his stomach eventually."

Rosemary Bwire, a cou nselling psychologist at Uganda Christian University, Mukono, says naturally, men tend to jump at the chance, even before they are ready. According to Bwire, where a man will quickly jump on the adventure irrespective of doubts and mystery, a woman will first try to think through it.

"Women tend to be able to combine intuitive and logical thinking. They are more aware of the implications of others and their actions and they think more carefully about the resources needed to accomplish a given goal," explains Bwire.

Bottom line

Experts, however, say it is important to look at one's ability, irrespective of their gender.

"Well-trained and moral technocrats do a good job whether male or female. It is about individual discipline and knowing where you want to take your career," says Aryijuka.

Ads by Google

Copyright © 2013 New Vision. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.