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  • Writer's pictureCheyanne Scharbatke-Church - CJL

Is Female Discrimination in the Justice Sector Corruption?

By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

We wish to improve the gender representation within the anti-corruption theory of change in the program we support in DRC, starting with action-research. In this post, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church shares the latest updates from the process and the current direction for this research.

As followers of this blog know, we have an ongoing interest in the intersection of gender and corruption (see here and here). Since March of this year we have transformed this interest, into a small action research project looking at gender and corruption in the judiciary in Lubumbashi, DRC. Our intent is to inform our DRC programming, Kuleta Haki, as well as contribute to the development of a corruption analytic process that generates more effective programming (the overarching purpose of our entire program). As the research unfolds we will post what we have done, learned and found.

A little backstory…

Our interest in the intersection of gender and corruption comes from many different places, not the least of which was a fascinating conversation with the Congo-based staff of our implementing partner RCN J&D. In late 2015, as we worked to flesh out a theory of change for our program, it was asserted that women are discriminated against in the CJS, and this is a form of corruption. Despite an energetic discussion, the specifics of that relationship remained unclear. Making it more perplexing was the fact that the original analysis which was based over 150 interviews did not result in any mention of this as a corruption issue. However, those who conducted that research were no longer with the project, so it was difficult to know with certainty if and how this issue has been broached.

Without an understanding of the relationship, the team was not able to address this issue as part of our systemic understanding of how corruption functions. Furthermore, the initial theory of change did not explicitly address changing gender-based corruption, nor engender the theory of change. Instead, at the urging of our Congo-based staff, the program established a Gender and Corruption subgroup of the anti-corruption Network. This sub-group has been quite popular with female Network members, often holding vibrant conversations about the relationship between gender and types of corruption in the CJS. Yet the question of how gender and inevitably, gender norms in the context might relate to corruption was still outstanding.

What & why

With this research we are seeking to improve the gender representation within the theory of change and implementation for the Kuleta Haki project. It is our belief that a theory of change that is gender-blind will be less likely to catalyze sustainable changes in the context. Adding a gender dimension to the theory of change will involve making strategic adjustments to the current program design, based on the research findings, to ensure it is responsive to the differing experiences of corruption for men and women (and substrata within each group) in the CJS. This could include the development of new objectives, nuanced assumptions or alternative activities.

Our working assumptions

We had three key working assumptions that guided 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 much more quickly.

What we want to know

First, we wanted to know; how can we make our systems map, a key analytic tool for this project, a “deeper” reflection of the system of corruption through this research. Three of the five associated research questions included:

  1. What are the gender power dynamics in the police and courts (related to criminal justice issues)?

  2. How are the experiences of corruption impacted by gender? e.g. do the types of corruption engaged in differ, do the consequences of corruption or resisting corruption differ?

  3. What is the relationship, if any, between discrimination of women in the police and courts and corruption? What drives (causes or contributes to) this relationship?

Second, we sought to understand how gender identity needs to be incorporated into effective strategies for corruption resistance and what should be avoided. Two of the five associated research questions included:

  1. What impact does gender identity have on one’s attitude and ability to resist corruption? Does the type of corruption matter (e.g., political pressure from above, client bribes, etc.)

  2. When is addressing gender inequality a required condition for effectively resisting corruption more broadly?

Where have we been and where are we going?

As of late May, 2017 we are just over half-way through this effort. This means we have completed a quick and dirty literature review, developed our research methodology and tools, conducted 99 interviews, convened a participatory analysis with the anti-corruption network members, coded and analyzed the data and worked through the potential implications on our understanding of the system of corruption and theory of change.

The next step is to take the draft findings back to Lubumbashi to receive the feedback of the Network. With this in hand, we will facilitate a review of what these findings mean for the most current systems map and then discuss engendering the theory of change. We will continue to post about our findings and lessons from this process.

Some tastes of what may be coming…

  • One of the key draft findings of the research is: sexual favors are regularly demanded of women who avail of the criminal justice system as well as from women who work within the system. The majority of men perceive this to be of little consequence, while women are outraged.

  • When we did a dry run of applying the tentative findings to our corruption as a system map, we were shocked by how many clear changes were needed. There were some adaptations of existing factors, while others were the creation of entirely new loops.

  • One of the ongoing questions that we have from this process so far is whether it would be feasible to conduct a gender analysis as part of an initial assessment of how corruption functions. Our initial assessments in DRC and Uganda require resources as has this gender study; so do we run the risk of making the assessment process too demanding and thus no one willing to conduct it? To be clear this is not a question of ‘should’ it, but rather would it be feasible from a time and participant tolerance perspective.


About the Author

Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalyzing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. As a Professor of Practice at The Fletcher School, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.


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