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      Corruption and Women

Corruption is defined as "the abuse of public office for private gain"[1]


Corruption is termed as a plague, which is not only contagious but if not controlled spreads like fire in a jungle. Its virus is compared with HIV leading to AIDS, being incurable. It has also been termed as royal thievery. The socio-political system exposed to such a dreaded communicable disease is likely to crumble under its own weight. Corruption is opposed to democracy and social order, being not only anti-people, but aimed and targeted against them. It affects the economy and destroys the cultural heritage. Unless nipped in the bud at the earliest, it is likely to cause turbulence- shaking of the socio-economic-political system in an otherwise healthy, wealthy, effective and vibrating society[2]” The Supreme Court of India cautioned the nation by the above observation when it discussed the Preamble of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

This is not the scenario of India alone or that of the third world countries but of the whole world. Global corruption assessment by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index rank several East Asian countries the most corrupt in the world[3]. An exception to this may be the Scandinavian Countries[4].

In a press release in the Transparency International the Transparency Mauritius calls upon the highest authorities of the country for the legal and judicial framework of the fight against corruption to be reinforced as soon as possible. The press release “Actions to fight corruption” on July 14, 2000 warned that in the light of the many cases of alleged fraud and corruption, both in the public and private sectors and presently reported by the press, Transparency Mauritius notes a marked deterioration of the confidence climate within the population. The numerous investigations that are being conducted by the Economic Crime Office demonstrate the urgent necessity to ensure more transparency at the level of administrative procedures and important transactions. These, because of the gray areas that are associated with them, help to create and maintain suspicions, justified or not, in relation to decisions and measures taken by people in position of responsibility.

The Transparency International conducted a study of corruption level in various countries of the world and they found New Zealand[5] the less corrupt country. India stood along with Bulgaria and Egypt at the 66th position in the corrupt countries in the world.[6] In a country where 90% of the citizen and 57% of the police have no idea about any Anti-Corruption law and only 42% of the police knows only the Indian Penal Code provisions to deal with anti-corruption activities and have no idea about Prevention of Corruption Act[7] the time has come to think heavily about a solution to curb the corruption by other methods. The dimension in to which corruption has grown today shows the magnitude of the danger ahead of the civilized people who are the right-thinking members of the society. Corruption has grown to such heights that it gets clubbed with criminalisation. From there it has grown to get clubbed with narcotic drugs and its lobbies. From there it has grown to get clubbed with terrorists organizations. India has fallen into the vortex of corruption to such a depth that nobody can suggest a full solution[8].

Many Anti - corruption strategies are identified by different agencies.



Corruption undermines economic development and damages social stability. Concern about corruption has intensified in recent years, and is accompanied by the effort to understand corruption. Possible connections between gender and corruption have not been adequately investigated. A commonly held belief is that increasing women's representation might reduce corruption in an organization and its environment. Could the proportion of women employees in a public organization be connected with the level of corruption in that organization? If women are under-represented in public organizations' employment, and if raising the percentage of women is associated with reduced levels of corruption, then actively promoting women's employment could be part of the World Bank's strategy to improve governance. Since 1996, the World Bank has supported more than 600 Anti - corruption programs and governance initiatives developed by its member countries. To reduce the corrosive impact of corruption in a sustainable way, it is important to go beyond the symptoms to tackle the causes of corruption.

The World Bank has identified corruption as the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development. It undermines development by distorting the rule of law and weakening the institutional foundation on which economic growth depends. The Bank believe that an effective Anti corruption strategy builds on key elements like Strengthening Civil Society Participation, Creating a Competitive Private Sector, Improving Public Sector Management and Increasing Political Accountability.


Three major dimensions in the strategy against corruption is identified as (1) Strengthening of Anti- Corruption Machinery (2) Reducing opportunities for Corruption and (3) Strengthening of internal controls in the Government Departments and Public Sector Undertakings[9]. The strategy to reduce opportunities for corruption is not a new one. But an old one, heard for decades and spoken by crores and finally a vanished concept as out dated. Why because the word “Corruption” has become so stereo typed today that we have become insensitive to that word[10]

A survey of enterprise owners and managers in the Republic of Georgia indicates that firms owned or managed by women pay bribes on approximately 5 % of occasions when coming into contact with a government agency. The percentage is twice as high for firms with a male owner or manager (11%). While women are less involved in corruption themselves, they are even more disadvantaged from the consequences of a corrupt system. Gender-Sensitive Budget Analysis proves that men profit much more from public expenditures than women. In many countries, the allocation for programs focusing on women is only a fraction of the total national budget. In Argentina and in the Dominican Republic, the grant for women’s programs budget amounts to 0.0046% and 0.002% of the total national budget, respectively.

In a detailed review of the available empirical research on corruption, Lambsdorff (1999) lists only two studies under the category of corruption and gender.[11]

In the first study, “Are Women really the “Fairer” Sex? Corruption and Women in Government” in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization (46: 423-429,) Dollar, Fisman, and Gatti (2001), found, in a large cross-section of countries, the greater the representation of women in parliament, the lower the level of corruption.

In the second study, “Gender and Corruption,” Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 64, 2001, 25-55, Swamy, Knack, Lee and Azfar (2001) used several independent data sets to show that corruption is less severe where women comprise a larger share of labor force, and where women hold a larger share of parliamentary seats. These two studies provide preliminary evidence that increasing women’s representation might reduce corruption in an organization and its environment.

Corruption decreases national budget resources. It also reduces, for example, the amount of public spending on health and social security, which affects women disproportionately. If there is a cut in public spending, maternal and child health services are more likely to be the worst hit victims. It is harder for female-headed households to get their children into school or to get themselves hospital care[12] Corruption in the Serbian health system is an example to this.


"We plan to have more children," is the most common answer that journalists receive when they attempt to get a straight response from parents on corruption in the fields of gynecology and obstetrics, the sector of medicine dealing with childbirth. In a country where more people die than are born every year, this response obviously serves as an excuse for common people not ready to discuss this issue openly. The majority of these young parents will tell you off-the-record about how they were asked to pay money for services, or how they offered money of their own accord, to get normal treatment in maternity hospitals. They, however, are not prepared to divulge any details on maternity wards or doctors... According to a recent study by the Center for Investigating Alternatives, 29 percent of the citizens in Serbia reported having been asked for money or a favor by a physician, last year. The results of this study also indicate that people have understanding for people who are "forced" to make bribes. Half of the respondents said that both sides -- the briber and the bribed -- should be punished, while 45 percent said only the person who accepted the bribe should be punished. With people so tolerant of bribery, it is not surprising that the overwhelming majority would rather reach for their wallet than make use of their rights, in situations where their health or the health of their loved ones is at stake...[13] Corruption is absolutely, completely and utterly endemic in Nigeria. It is part of daily life, to the extent that you have to assume every one getting a contract is paying someone off”[14]


During June - August 2002, Kazak citizens registered on TI-Kazakhstan's website their rankings of the degree of corruption in law enforcement agencies. The following ranked among the most corrupt: Agency of National Security (262), Committee of Judicial Administration (219), Prosecutors (193), courts (various levels) (165), Financial Policy (159), and bodies for internal affairs (144).[15]

"A corrupt legal system reinforces existing gender discrimination in many countries. Women’s civil rights are grossly unfair with regard to marriage/divorce, family law, child custody, financial independence and inheritance and property rights. Often they have no ability to make decisions without the consent of a male relative"[16]

Philosophically, one can approach the issue of gender in development from at least three perspectives: equality, empowerment, and development effectiveness. If we look across key aspects of development and focus on the role of women—as the World Bank has just done in its Policy Research Report Engendering Development—we learn a very powerful lesson: the active participation of women, whether in education, income generation, social protection, or governance, contributes consistently to more effective development. In the area of microcredit, studies show that women repay more reliably than men do. And evidence from Bangladesh indicates that lending to women has greater positive impacts on household income than does lending to men. Women use the resources more productively and sensibly; women's borrowing is more strongly associated with child schooling and nutritional status than is men’s borrowing; and there is evidence that households more successfully “smooth” their consumption in the face of economic shocks when women borrow. Finally, as Engendering Development discusses, there is new evidence that greater involvement of women in the labor market, in business, and in politics is associated with lower levels of corruption and better governance. These relationships are strong, even controlling for other factors that help to explain corruption. Although we need to do more policy research to understand the causal mechanisms underlying these relationships, the finding is certainly intriguing. All of this evidence adds up to an overwhelming argument for greater gender awareness in development policymaking. Gender should be incorporated into the way we think about and approach development, from project design to methods of work and statistics. Gender awareness is central to the work of the World Bank, and to the way we think about the whole spectrum of development problems.[17]


In the ancient Indian society woman occupies a most significant and venerable place. In Rig-Veda husband and wife appear to have occupied an equal status. Wife is designated as ‘Dampati’. According to ‘Satpatha Brahmana’, woman was regarded equal with man. Thus during the Vedic period, “the position of woman was generally not unequal to that of man. Woman had similar education as man; she took part in philosophic debates like man and with men; she practiced penances like man. This shows that man and woman were regarded as having equally important status in the social life of the early period.”[18] The outstanding change of the status of women in medieval period has been the change from freedom to bondage and from honor to disgrace. Custom of ‘sati’, child marriages and prohibition of widow re-marriage were widely prevalent. At present woman is equal to man in every sphere of life. She enjoys an equal status with men in law.


In many countries, those who win cases tend to be involved with corrupt prosecutors and judges. Women simply do not have the means to compete in this way. Corrupt judicial procedures and the prevalence of "old boys networks" makes it in many cases impossible for women to win legal battles in a transparent and open way. This needs a change by the women themselves. The social concept about the role of a male member in the Indian society and family is an important aspect. Male members are to look after the family. Male members are the social controller in the Indian Society. Male members are generally spending money for other social gatherings. They are a shade whereas the women are protected under the shade. These are the fundamental duties of a male member in the Indian society.


These views can be attacked from several angles. The fundamental duties expressed above is an old concept of Indian social system and family setups. Now a joint family[19] is transformed in to the form of a nuclear family. Unlike in the joint family each member of the family is responsible for the welfare of them self and each has to act and behave accordingly. So men do not posses an upper stand than the women especially in the case of working class.


Kerala 2001 Census (provisional) discloses that the total Population in the State was 31,838,619, out of which 15,468,664 is male population and 16,369,955 is female population. The literacy percentage of Male was 94.20 and female was 87.86. This survey report discloses the fact of literacy percentage of female are lesser than male. In sex ratio females per 1000 males are 1058. The percentage of employed female in the Government sector is lesser than the male.

The women in Governmental and other public sectors are not that much corrupt when comparing with the men. Women are less vulnerable to crimes in other countries[20]. In a study released in the New Zealand the women are seen less vulnerable to crimes. Of the cases that resulted in conviction in 2000, and for which the gender of the offender was known, 83% involved male offenders and 17% involved female offenders.

Eighty-nine percent of the convictions for a violent offence in 2000 involved male offenders and only 11% involved female offenders. Female offenders were responsible for 22% of the property offence cases and 18% of the traffic and "miscellaneous" offence cases that resulted in conviction in 2000. Forty-seven percent of the offences for which females were convicted in 2000 were traffic offences.

10th       UN Congress, Vienna in April 2000 discussed the following issues: 1] Combating corruption 2] Crimes related to the computer network 3] Community involvement in crime prevention 4] Women in the criminal justice system.[21]  Women are less likely to pay bribes but are more disadvantaged in corrupt systems. Corruption has a disproportionately negative effect on women.[22] Higher levels of women’s participation in public life are associated with lower levels of corruption. Corruption is less severe where women comprise a larger share of parliamentary seats[23] A study concludes that higher rates of female participation in government are associated with lower levels of corruption. It is suggested that women may have higher standards of ethical behavior and appear to be more concerned with the common good.[24]

The information presented in this chapter is based on the number of criminal charges processed by the three Courts of Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge in the State of Kerala from 1997 to 2001 and tabulated with the male and female ratio as follows:

Table 1. Total cases in the 3 Special Courts (Vigilance ) courts in Kerala from 1997-2001

Thiruvananthapuram                                                                                          306     

Trichur                                                                                                             142     

Kozhikkode                                                                                                     178     

Total                                                                                                               626     

The total cases charge sheeted in the three courts all over the State was 626 and maintained an average 62.5%

Graphic analysis of total cases in 3 courts 1997-2001

Table 2. Total number of accused in the 3 Courts 1997-2001

Thiruvananthapuram                                                                                                      0558*  

Trichur                                                                                                                         0260   

Kozhikkode                                                                                                                 0367   

Total                                                                                                                           1185   

* The highest numbers of offenders were charge sheeted at Thiruvananthapuram Court.




Graphic analysis of total accused in 3 courts 1997-2001


Table 3. Total number of male accused in the 3 Courts 1997-2001

Thiruvananthapuram                                                                                          0535*              

Trichur                                                                                                             0243               

Kozhikkode                                                                                                     0343               

Total                                                                                                               1121               

* Highest numbers of offenders were charge sheeted

Table 4. Total number of Female accused in the 3 Courts 1997-2001

Thiruvananthapuram                                                                                          23                   

Trichur                                                                                                             16                   

Kozhikkode                                                                                                     24                   

Total                                                                                                               63                   


Analysis of male female ratio in 3 Courts 1997-2001

Five years survey in the three Vigilance Special courts were taken for an analysis. The Vigilance & Anti-Corruption Bureau has charge sheeted the cases after investigation in three Special Courts. The total number of cases charge sheeted for 5 years is taken for the study. 626 cases were charge sheeted by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau, Kerala and there are 1185 accused in all the cases. Out of this male accused are 1122 and female are only 63. When taking in to account the total accused the percentage of Female accused is 5.32%. The accused wise percentage is only 5.61. The female percentage of corrupt activity is low in the State of Kerala. 


The Enquiry Commissioner & Special Judge, Thiruvananthapuram has convicted 6 Female accused during 1997. From 1998 to 2001 there was no female accused convicted. The total Male accused convicted was 1997 – 40, 1998- 57, 1999- 33, 2000-43 and 2001- 57. The percentage of conviction of female for the 5 years was 2.61. The Enquiry Commissioner & Special Judge, Thrichur has convicted 1 female accused each in the year 1197 and 1998. Whereas this Court has convicted 7 male accused in 1997, 26 in 1998, 32 in 1999, 14 in 2000 and 1 in 2001. The percentage of this Court in Female conviction was 2.5. So there is an average of 2.5 % conviction in the case of female public servants.


Awareness of Anti-Corruption laws

A survey was conducted orally among 25 Public men in Grama Panchayaths and Municipalities, basing the rural area of Ernakulam, Idukki Districts, among 25 general public in the Idukki District, among 10 Public Servants in the Local Self Government Officials, 10 Animal Husbandry Dept. officials, 10 Revenue Dept, 10 in School teachers, and 5 in aided School Managers.


Table A: Awareness of Corruption Laws in Female public servants








   Not Aware






No. of Respondents



























Graphic analysis of awareness

The survey was oral and simple with one question.

Are you aware of any Anti-Corruption laws? Yes/No.

All the participants who gave a negative answer immediately reacted with out even given a thought on the subject.

The elected members of panchayath need high level education about the Anti-corruption laws and other laws incidental to it. Even though ignorance of law is not an excuse it is high time to wipe out their ignorance otherwise they will be guided by cunning public servants in the execution of welfare schemes in Grama Panchayaths and Municipalities.

In the case of Male Public servants the awareness about the Anti- Corruption activities is poor. A much more improvement is seen in the case of Female public servants.

In the case of public in general awareness is felt highly needed to curb corruption.



1] Identify the sensitive departments[25] of State Administration with which the citizen frequently comes in touch and wherein corruption prevails.

2] Appoint qualified women in the sensitive posts where volume of corruption is high.

3] Educate illiterate and rustic elected members of local self Government

4] Conduct awareness programs for women public servants and public men about the consequences of corruption and what all activities attract criminal and civil liabilities.

5] A unique form of women volunteers to check and prevent corruption in public offices.

6] Mass campaigns among women to discard the demand of corruption by public servants and to report such demand to the women volunteers

7] Women “Whistle Blowers” to be organized discreetly in direct contact with the head of the Anti-Corruption agencies.




By: Adv. K.C. Suresh, B.A., LL.M (Crimes), PGDHR (Human Rights)



[1] The definition of Corruption by World Bank in “Helping Countries Combat Corruption” (website)

[2] 2000 SCC [Cri] 887 – Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 - Preamble

[3] From article “Fighting Corruption in East Asia and Pacific Region (EAP)”  EAP from WB site

[4] Observation made by Panelist Sri. Raja Vijay Karan, Former Director, Central Bureau of Investigation in the National Training Seminar on “Corruption cases: Problems of Investigation & Prosecution conducted by the National Institute of Criminology & Forensic Science in association with Central Bureau of Investigation in Session II in subject “Problems Encountered in Investigation of Corruption cases” on November 14, 2002 at Vigyan  Bhavan, Maulana Azad road, New Delhi.

[5] The "other" category in 2000 included a small number of individuals convicted of 266 charges of: corrupt use of official information, bribing officials, officials accepting bribes, or other bribery or corruption offences. In 1999, there were only 21 such convictions, and five or less convictions in each of the earlier years in the decade. **Source under mentioned.


[6] Table – I in the Article “Applying Zero Tolerance to Corruption” by Sri. N. Vittal, Central Vigilance Commisioner published in the The Indian Police Journal, April 2000 Edition

[7] Observation made by Panelist Sri. Prof. B.B. Pande, Law Department, Delhi University in the National Training Seminar on “Corruption cases: Problems of Investigation & Prosecution conducted by the National Institute of Criminology & Forensic Science in association with Central Bureau of Investigation in Session IV in subject “Need & Modes of Healthy Co-ordination between Investigating Agencies, Prosecution & Trial” on November 15, 2002 at Vigyan  Bhavan, Maulana Azad road, New Delhi.


[8] “Anatomy and Epidemic of Corruption” – “Second D.P. Kohli Memorial Lecture” delivered by Hon’ble Justice Shri. K.T. Thomas of the Supreme Court of India, New Delhi on 1-4-2001 published in CBI, Bulletin, April 2001.


[9] Article “Tackling Corruption” by Sri. Balwinder Singh, Gy. Inspector General of Police, Central Bureau of Investigation New Delhi published in CBI Bulletin, March 2000


[10] “Anatomy and Epidemic of Corruption” – “Second D.P. Kohli Memorial Lecture” delivered by Hon’ble Justice Shri. K.T. Thomas of the Supreme Court of India, New Delhi on 1-4-2001 published in CBI, Bulletin, April 2001.


[12] Result of the survey carried out by the Transparency International chapter of Bangladesh.

[13]  Article “Corruption in the Serbian Health System: How Much Does a Healthy Baby Cost?” Source: Beta News Agency 19 August 2002, Web site No bribes.

[14] “Power and Corruption” by Stephen Moore. page 5, Chapter 2 “ Corruption in Paradise


[16] Roslyn Hees, Senior Advisor , Transparency International.

[17] “Engendering Development: A comment” article by  Nicholas H. Stern, The Chief Economist, The World Bank.


[18] Pundarinath Prabhu: “Hindu Social Organization”, P.258

[19] “A joint family is a group of people who generally live under one roof, who eat food cooked at one hearth who hold property in common and who participate in common worship and are related to each other as some particular type of kindered”  Smt. Irawati Karve


[22] Press release of “Transparency International”,  Berlin, 8 March, 2000.

[23] A study by the IRIS Centre, University of Maryland. This has also been underlined by a World Bank study on "Corruption and women in government".

[24] In the light of this, a new all-female squad of uniformed patrols has been set up in Mexico last year in the hope of curbing corruption. In northern Mexico (Cuernavaca), the number of women police officers has been increased in the expectation that they would be more honest.

[25] From the extract of  Gazette no. 218/1/77-AVD II dated 16-2-77 of Govt. of India, Dept. of PAR, New Delhi published in the CBI Bulletin, Vigilance Division, Kerala 1978




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