Gendered discrimination and corruption in the justice sector – new learning from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

5 June 2017 Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church Gendered discrimination and corruption in the justice sector – new learning from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

How do discrepancies in access to and delivery of services affect men and women differently?  How do gender and corruption interact? How could this feed into conflict? CDA Collaborative Learning Projects has been exploring these questions (see here and here) – and searching for answers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo).

In late 2015 CDA’s partners in Congo for the Kuleta Haki (“Provide Justice”) programme, RCN J&D, told us that women were discriminated against in the criminal justice system, and that this was a form of corruption. But after an energetic discussion, the specifics remained unclear. Making it more perplexing, our original analysis based on over 150 interviews did not mention this as a corruption issue at all.

The lack of data made it impossible to fit the issue within our systemic map of corruption, and this meant our theory of change might fail to address gender-based corruption.  In response, our Congo-based staff pushed us to set up a Gender and Corruption group within the anti-corruption Network.  This has been popular with female Network members – yet the question of how gender and gender norms actually relate to corruption remains outstanding.

To support better analysis and improved work in response, CDA established a small action research project with the judiciary in Lubumbashi in March 2017. This blog explains our approach and shares some initial findings.

What & Why

This research is about improving the gender-related aspects of our theory of change in the Kuleta Haki projectAdding a gender dimension to the theory of change will involve making strategic adjustments to the program’s design to make it responsive to the differing experiences of corruption for men and women (and substrata within each group) in the criminal justice system. This is tricky but vital: a theory of change that is gender-blind will be less likely to catalyse sustainable changes. 

Our working assumptions

Three key assumptions guide our work (adapted from this Saferworld toolkit):

  1. ‘Gender’ is not synonymous with ‘women’. The lives of men are also shaped by gender norms and roles.
  2. ‘Women’ and ‘men’ are not homogeneous groups. People’s experiences vary greatly according to other aspects of their identities, such as age, marital status, class, caste, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, (dis)ability and so on. There are also power hierarchies within different gender groups. Any reference to women or men assumes that this will be broken out into relevant strata.
  3. Gender norms are not an inherent part of any culture – they have evolved over time and will continue to do so. Although gender norms often change slowly over long periods, gender-based behaviors may change more quickly.

What we want to know

Six key topics in our research are:

  1. How to adjust our systems maps to portray the system of corruption more accurately?
  2. What are the gender power dynamics in the police and courts?
  3. How are the experiences of corruption impacted by gender? E.g. does the gender of those involved affect corrupt behaviours, or alter the consequences of corruption or resisting corruption?
  4. What is the relationship, if any, between discrimination against women in the police and courts and corruption? What drives this relationship?
  5. What impact does gender identity have on one’s attitude towards and ability to resist corruption? Does the type of corruption matter (e.g. political pressure from above, client bribes, etc.)?
  6. When is addressing gender inequality a required condition for effectively resisting corruption more broadly?

The last two topics are crucial if we are to learn how to incorporate gender identity into effective strategies for resisting corruption.

Where have we been and where are we going?

So far we have reviewed findings from related research, analysed the data from 99 interviews and a participatory analysis with anti-corruption network members, and worked through the potential implications on our understanding of the system of corruption and theory of change. The next steps are to get feedback on our findings from the Network in Lubumbashi and update our systems map and build more gendered response strategies into our theory of change. As our work progresses, we will post our findings and lessons from the action-research on the CDA corruption in fragile states blog.   

Initial findings

  1. Sexual favors are perceived to be regularly demanded of women who engage with the criminal justice system as well as from women who work within it. Most men perceive this not to matter, while women are outraged.
  2. When we applied the tentative findings to our corruption system map, we were shocked by how many significant changes were needed. In some places existing factors need adapting, in others, we will be creating entirely new loops.
  3. It is clear that gender analysis can significantly enhance assessments of how corruption functions. How can a gender lens be integrated into assessment methods of relevant actors while ensuring assessment processes remain feasible and useable for practitioners?

Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is a Professor of Practice at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she has taught courses in corruption and conflict, as well as design, monitoring and evaluation in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.  She leads the Central Africa Accountability in Service Delivery Initiative at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects.