Vul­ner­a­bil­ity of women lead­ers to an­ticor­rup­tion

While cor­rup­tion may be gen­der-neu­tral, an­ticor­rup­tion ap­pears gen­der­biased against women.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - By Jide Ak­in­tunde

Last Au­gust, the 36th pres­i­dent of Brazil, Dilma Rouss­eff, was re­moved from of­fice fol­low­ing her im­peach­ment on the al­le­ga­tion that she fal­si­fied the bud­get deficit to aid her re­elec­tion in 2014. Later, in Novem­ber, Hil­lary Clin­ton, the first fe­male can­di­date of a ma­jor US party, suf­fered im­prob­a­ble loss in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Her al­leged un­trust­wor­thi­ness stuck, and it swayed vic­tory in favour of Don­ald Trump who is serv­ing as the 45th Pres­i­dent of the United States.

And, this March, South Korea's Con­sti­tu­tional Court up­held the im­peach­ment of Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye. She was the 11th pres­i­dent of the coun­try. Sev­eral ac­cu­sa­tions of her wrong­do­ings cul­mi­nated in her re­moval from of­fice, on the al­le­ga­tion that her ad­viser had used her un­of­fi­cial po­si­tion to so­licit bribes from some of the coun­try's large con­glom­er­ates.

For the avoid­ance of doubt, these women lead­ers have been the big­gest ca­su­al­ties of public and in­sti­tu­tional re­pu­di­a­tion of cor­rup­tion, across the ad­vanced and emerg­ing mar­kets, in re­cent times. That all three are women ap­pears to counter the no­tion that women are bet­ter dis­posed than men in pro­mot­ing hon­est gov­ern­ment.

Clin­ton was stopped in her tracks from be­com­ing the first fe­male pres­i­dent of the United States. But the ac­cu­sa­tions against her date back to when she was Sec­re­tary of State. They in­clude her use of a pri­vate email server as Sec­re­tary of State and ly­ing about it; us­ing her in­flu­ence in gov­ern­ment to at­tract do­na­tions to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion; and grant­ing ex­pen­sive speeches to Wall Street busi­nesses. The con­se­quences suf­fered by Clin­ton and these other women lead­ers for their al­leged cor­rup­tion have stood out. They now raise the ques­tion: are women lead­ers more cor­rupt than their male coun­ter­parts?

It is counter-in­tu­itive that women would be more cor­rupt in gov­ern­ment than men. Women don't have the num­bers to be so dom­i­nant. The global af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion bench­marks 35 per­cent women rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the elec­tive and ap­pointive po­si­tions. Many coun­tries have yet to at­tain this mark.

How­ever, the hy­poth­e­sis that women con­sti­tute the fairer sex – the idea that women are more hon­est in gov­ern­ment – has been hardly af­firmed. Justin Esarey and

Gina Chir­illo found that sex gap in cor­rup­tion ex­ists, but only in the in­sti­tu­tional and cul­tural con­text of the demo­cratic coun­tries. In the democ­ra­cies, women would be more re­strained in tol­er­at­ing or par­tic­i­pat­ing in cor­rup­tion in gov­ern­ment than men. But women and men share same at­ti­tudes to­wards cor­rup­tion in the world's au­toc­ra­cies.

Gen­der dis­par­i­ties in cor­rup­tion may not be that smartly the­o­rised any­more. We may quib­ble over the ex­tent of the demo­cratic cul­tures of Brazil and South Korea. But if the United States is not a democ­racy, then no coun­try is. Clin­ton's al­leged grafts, there­fore, im­pugns the fram­ing of cor­rup­tion in ways that feed the stereo­type of au­to­cratic de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. With sim­i­lar sophism, de­vel­op­ing coun­tries who are the big­gest vic­tims of global cor­rup­tion, rank mostly low­est on Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional's cor­rup­tion barom­e­ter.

While cor­rup­tion may be gen­derneu­tral, an­ticor­rup­tion ap­pears gen­der­biased against women. Clin­ton ran against Don­ald Trump, who cre­ated a moral ex­cep­tion­al­ism for him­self. Pro­mot­ing self­Hyundai, con­ceited in­vin­ci­bil­ity and im­punity, he de­clared ahead of the 2016 elec­tion that “I could stand in the mid­dle of 5th Av­enue and shoot some­body and I wouldn't lose vot­ers.” Later dur­ing the cam­paign, a video in which he boasted about grop­ing women with­out their con­sent swirled in the me­dia. Yet Mr. Trump con­tin­ued to make the elec­tion a moral de­ci­sion for the U.S. elec­torate by his “Crooked Hil­lary” chants. He was not held ac­count­able, at least for adding boast­ful­ness to his own dis­hon­ourable be­hav­iours. Clin­ton lost the elec­tion.

The im­peach­ment of Pres­i­dents Rouss­eff and Park demon­strated zero tol­er­ance for cor­rup­tion in­volv­ing a fe­male pres­i­dent in Brazil and South Korea. Both women were the first fe­male pres­i­dents in their dif­fer­ent coun­tries. But some of the cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions Pres­i­dent Rouss­eff was em­broiled in dated back to when her po­lit­i­cal god­fa­ther, Ig­na­cio Lula da Silva, was the 35th Pres­i­dent. The al­le­ga­tions of malfea­sance that brought down Pres­i­dent Park have been long as­so­ci­ated with the coun­try's po­lit­i­cal econ­omy that cre­ated the chae­bol con­glom­er­ates, in­clud­ing Sam­sung and LG. How­ever, in both Brazil and South Korea, none of the to­tal 45 past male pres­i­dents was suc­cess­fully re­moved from of­fice through im­peach­ment. (Brazil­ian Pres­i­dent Fer­nando Col­lor de Mello re­signed be­fore he could be re­moved from of­fice through im­peach­ment, while the im­peach­ment of South Korea's Ro Moo-Hyun was over­turned by the court and he was re­stored to power.)

The suc­cess­ful oust­ing of the two women lead­ers, with Clin­ton's loss of the elec­tion, shows more vul­ner­a­bil­ity of women to an­ticor­rup­tion, com­pared to men. When Pres­i­dent Umaru Yar'Adua came to of­fice in Nige­ria in May 2007, he promised to fight cor­rup­tion. His pre­de­ces­sor, Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo, had cre­ated the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC) and used the agency more no­tably to crip­ple his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents. But in less than eight months, the big­gest three fish caught in the an­ticor­rup­tion drag­net of Pres­i­dent Yar'Adua were women func­tionar­ies in gov­ern­ment.

Mrs. Pa­tri­cia Et­teh, the first fe­male Speaker of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, had to re­sign her po­si­tion just ahead of be­ing im­peached. She was in­dicted for a N628 mil­lion con­tract scam in­volv­ing the ren­o­va­tion of her of­fi­cial res­i­dence and that of her deputy, and the pur­chase of 12 of­fi­cial cars meant for the House. Et­teh's suc­ces­sor, Dimeji Bankole, served out his term, al­though he was em­broiled in a N40 bil­lion scam for much of his ten­ure as Speaker.

The two other women were Se­na­tor Iyabo Obasanjo, Chair of Se­nate Com­mit­tee for Health; and Min­is­ter for Health, Prof. Adenike Grange (her deputy, a man, was also in­volved). They were in­ves­ti­gated by the EFCC for em­bez­zle­ment of public funds. N300 mil­lion in un­spent bud­get was shared by the of­fi­cials and a cou­ple of top civil ser­vants in the Min­istry, in­stead of re­turn­ing the fund to the public cof­fer. Prof. Grange and her deputy had to re­fund the money and re­sign.

Women con­front four abid­ing chal­lenges when they make it to top gov­ern­ment po­si­tions. One, they con­sti­tute a tiny mi­nor­ity. This doesn't elicit sup­port but an­tipa­thy from the male es­tab­lish­ment. Women have to deal with cyn­i­cism and prej­u­dice in their push for, or at­tain­ment of, top po­si­tions in both the public and pri­vate sec­tors. Don­ald Trump mocked the idea of Carly Fio­r­ina's woman face for a U.S. Pres­i­dent, and called Hil­lary Clin­ton's bath­room break dur­ing a De­cem­ber 2015 pres­i­den­tial de­bate of the Democrats “dis­gust­ing.”

Two, the few women, com­ing newly into top gov­ern­ment po­si­tions, of­ten lack ex­pe­ri­ence of po­lit­i­cal power dy­nam­ics. Prof. Grange, an aca­demic and a Pae­di­a­tri­cian of in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion, was mis­led by the norm whereby un­spent bud­gets were “shared” at the end of each fis­cal year. The Fis­cal Re­spon­si­bil­ity Com­mis­sion, which over­sees the re­mit­tance of un­spent bud­get, has con­tin­ued to re­mon­strate over low com­pli­ance by gov­ern­ment agen­cies. But since scape­goat­ing Se­na­tor Obasanjo and Prof. Grange, no high-pro­file case of non­com­pli­ance has been dealt with such de­ci­sive­ness in Nige­ria that con­tin­ues to ex­pe­ri­ence about 60 per­cent av­er­age rate of im­ple­men­ta­tion of the cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture.

Three, women lack con­se­quen­tial solidarity. Such solidarity can be use­ful in shar­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and push­ing back against male chau­vin­ism. But the in­vin­ci­bil­ity of male lead­ers is, in part, pro­moted by their fra­ter­nity.

Four, so­ci­etal norms hold women to higher moral stan­dards than men. Vir­gin­ity at mar­riage is a virtue for women, which men need not even aspire to. But this is not be­cause women are seen to be su­pe­rior to men; it is in­te­gral to the sex­ism against women. Nev­er­the­less, the pos­i­tive stereo­type of women's higher moral­ity of­ten make them suf­fer back­lashes. When a woman trips the moral hur­dle, it is con­sid­ered graver than when men do.

How­ever, the ar­gu­ment for a pro­gres­sive im­prove­ment in hon­est gov­ern­ment may serve a ra­tio­nale for the lack of for­bear­ance on cor­rup­tion by women. Af­ter all, it is be­lieved that gen­der­in­clu­siv­ity is nec­es­sary in im­prov­ing the prospects of good gover­nance. There­fore, it would be more frus­trat­ing if women in gov­ern­ment per­pe­trate the same malaise that men have made busi­ness as usual.

But se­lec­tive an­ticor­rup­tion can­not pass muster. The re­cent public re­ac­tions to cor­rup­tion in the United States, Brazil and South Korea may sug­gest that women's in­volve­ment is not ac­cept­able in ways that men's in­volve­ment is. Since women may be nat­u­rally as cor­rupt as men, hold­ing women to higher moral stan­dard will only slow gen­der-in­clu­siv­ity in gov­ern­ment. It will also con­tinue to be a neg­a­tive in­cen­tive for wrong­do­ings by male lead­ers.

A case for tol­er­ance of cor­rup­tion by women lead­ers is also morally bank­rupt. But the higher vul­ner­a­bil­ity of women to an­ticor­rup­tion can­not pro­mote hon­est gov­ern­ment. We have to de­nounce prej­u­di­cial an­ticor­rup­tion.

Can­di­date of the US Demo­cratic Party in the 2016 Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tion, Hil­lary Clin­ton

For­mer Pres­i­dent of Brazil Dilma Rouss­eff

For­mer Pres­i­dent of South Korea Park Geun-hye

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