Addressing the interplay between gender and corruption

UNODC seeks to integrate gender-sensitive approaches at all stages of Anti-Corruption programme activities

Posted on 16 November 2018.

@Khaosod English


Corruption impacts women differently to men. For example, bribes are often demanded in accessing public services, such as health and education. As women are typically the primary care takers for children and the elderly, they are regularly confronted with corruption in public services. Women in the business sectors are more likely to have experiences of petty corruption in informal trading and have reduced access to markets and credits. Sexual favors are used as a currency in corruption, violating human rights and disproportionately affecting women. In a recent bribery case, a Singapore immigration officer was charged for receiving sexual favors in return for visa extensions for Chinese women. Further, corruption and clientelism have been found to discourage women from participating in political processes and public life.

Other studies have instead focused on how gender dynamics interplay with accountability and transparency in public institutions, highlighting the importance of social environment and closed circles: women are not the fairer sex, it's the institutional context that matters. Some anti-corruption programming has tried to build on these gender-dynamics to create more transparent and accountable public institutions and decision-making processes. These efforts include increasing the number of women or strengthening their roles in law enforcement, or strengthening the participation of women in community decision-making or Parliament.

UNODC assists States parties in implementing the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) . The Convention covers a wide area of anti-corruption measures from prevention to law enforcement, international cooperation and asset recovery. UNODC has developed a comprehensive range of anti-corruption programmes involving a broad range of stakeholders, including corruption prevention in the public service, education, capacity-building of law enforcement officers and prosecutors, and support countries in the development of anti-corruption legislative frameworks, policies and strategies. These activities could be utilized to address gender issues such as vulnerabilities of and discrimination against women, while they could also benefit from the integration of gender sensitive approaches in terms of effectiveness and sustainability of results achieved.

UNODC workshop in Bangkok on Gender and Corruption, September 2018


With the aim to explore actionable ideas, develop practical solutions and identify good practices on how the identified challenges can be addressed and opportunities exploited through anti-corruption programming in order to achieve enhanced impact for both women and men, UNODC organized a two-day Expert Meeting on Gender and Corruption in Bangkok, Thailand, bringing together representatives from civil society organisations, UN agencies, anti-corruption authorities, academia and the criminal justice sector.

Participants provided many inspiring insights of cases and practices where empowering women can reduce corruption at the same time. The initiative led by KPK to empower women across society to become anti-corruption champions is highlighted below. Various actionable ideas from the region and beyond can be found in the Workshop Report. One specific outcome of the workshop was a set of key recommendations, emerging from the discussions and participants' inputs for each of the discussed thematic areas: criminal justice integrity, private sector, civil society and public services. These recommendations will be used to guide the development of indicators UNODC is developing to mainstream gender into anti-corruption programming.


In Indonesia, women are trained by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) across society to become anti-corruption champions. The SPAK movement is a unique and innovative initiative that aims to instill collective change against corruption by focusing on behavior change and train women to become anti-corruption champions. 'By training the individuals first, we hope to make a change in the institutions' noted Ms. Iskak, KPK. SPAK has more than 1,000 agents in 34 provinces, and includes women organisations, law enforcement officers and civil servants. SPAK is particularly strong in law enforcement, with policewomen receiving awards for their anti-corruption work. Women police officers have instilled institutional improvements, innovation and better public service delivery systems against corruption. The SPAK I am a Woman Against Corruption received the UNODC award for Youth Creativity and Engagement.