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Gendered impact of corruption

…as women are proportionally more vulnerable to corruption than men

MATIISETSO MOSALA

Corruption is referred to as a global phenomenon and serious impediment to development and economic growth. Although it affects all social classes in communities we live in, poor women and young girls are among the most affected.

In order to understand corruption best in Lesotho, engage with women at grassroots level and get their perspective about corruption in the country.

As a young female journalist, my work exposed me to the most rural and remote areas of the country where I got a chance to engage deeper with women. There I realized how the definition of corruption is broader than the standard explanation of corruption just being a misuse of power for personal benefit.

With 23.3 percent unemployment rate in Lesotho, women reported being subjected to corruption when seeking employment or being an entrepreneur.

“It all starts with acquiring appropriate documentation, be identification documents needed for employment application or registration of businesses,” shared sentiments by women in the rural areas.

When exercising their land and property rights women encounter difficulties and become subjected to paying bribes for land transactions either to traditional authorities’ chiefs, male community councilors or male officers at the Land Administration Authority.

Women further encounter problems when participating in elections and politics, because of taking care of households and children without earning anything for a living, their votes are bought in exchange for money and gifts by politicians.

Many women vying for public office face tougher challenges than their male counterparts as their female colleagues have become used to handouts that they find it hard to stand with a fellow women contesting for power and give up handout and bribes offered by male politicians.

Security forces, the police service in particular have been fingered by these women to be the most corrupt government agency mandated to deal with protection of citizens and their property.

Some of the men in blue demand bribes in multiple forms from women daily, this includes demands made to sex workers to pay bribes through sex and or remitting their proceeds to the officers. Cases of domestic violence, rape assault, drag for a long time when reported to the law enforcement agency if a woman reporting does not give out a bribe for a speedy attendance to her case.

For young girls and women, it is both emotional and physical before it is financial. We cannot deny that some women offer themselves to men in exchange for jobs and promotions, we cannot not acknowledge also that there are those who are forced into these for different reasons. Whatever reason, it all boils down to a corrupt system that perpetuates abuse of public office for private gain. It is corruption, involuntarily or otherwise.

In the wake of commemorating the annual Global Anti-corruption Day today (December 09, 2019), Lesotho has failed to create a conducive and an enabling environment in the anti-corruption literature although, the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA), Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and Directorate on Crime and Economic Offences (DCEO) hold activities to raise awareness on the plague of corruption every year.

I am not too bumped that there are no commemoration activities happening this year due to lack of signs of their effect or impact they bring going forward towards the betterment of the lives of the poor, specifically women and girls.

Most people turn a blind eye to corruption, until it affects them directly. For others, it is only corruption when done by others which is the root of our challenge as a country in fighting these universal yet complex phenomena.

An uncle securing that job for family is not so bad right? He is family after all! However we may want to musk it, if it smells like corruption, it is corruption.

According to U4 Anti-corruption Resource Centre, an a centre promoting better understanding on anti-corruption, corruption can be a challenge to define as it takes many forms, and perpetrators are skilled in developing new ways to be corrupt and cover their tracks.

However, they define it as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Corruption hits hard on individuals, corporate, the government and countries as a whole.

Countless efforts have been made to try and combat corruption including exposés by the media trying to hold culprits accountable but to the largest extent it has all been in vain.

Lesotho is unable to effectively address corruption because the government is at the root of it.

Dr Moeketsi Majoro, minister of Finance, admitted to the absence of effective courts of law citing the government often signs agreements without following the right procedures.

This, Majoro said at a 2018 anti-corruption day celebration where he also talked of challenges in investigating criminal activities and prosecuting criminals in the courts of law.

“Corruption is a major challenge facing nations around the world, regardless of their work positions and educational status” Majoro said.

The abuse of power starts at the earliest ages of high school all the way through varsity where teachers and lecturers bribe students with good results for sexual benefit. This has led to most women being undermined for their educational qualifications and corporate abilities and competencies.

Lesotho’s anti-corruption body mandated to combat corruption and economic crime through a three-pronged strategy premised on prevention, public education and support, and investigation, leading to the prosecution of suspects and it is not nearly doing enough.

The body’s only success cases are those related to petty crimes or cases where perpetrators of corruption are not political connected.

However, we cannot just leave the fight against corruption to the anti- corruption body, and police to hold government accountable, it is a fight for all as it also involves citizens on the ground too.

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