Guest Post: Going Beyond Bribery? Improving the Global Corruption Barometer

Coralie Pring, Research Expert at Transparency International, contributes today’s guest post:

Transparency International has been running the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – a general population survey on corruption experience and perception – for a decade and a half now. Before moving ahead with plans for the next round of the survey, we decided to review the survey to see if we can improve it and make it more relevant to the current corruption discourse. In particular, we wanted to know whether it would be worthwhile to add extra questions on topics like grand corruption, nepotism, revolving doors, lobbying, and so forth. To that end, we invited 25 academics and representatives from some of Transparency International’s national chapters to a workshop last October to discuss plans for improving the GCB. We initially planned to focus on what we thought would be a simple question: Should we expand the GCB survey to include questions about grand corruption and political corruption?

In fact, this question was nowhere near simple to answer and it really divided the group. (Perhaps this should have been expected when you get 25 researchers in one room!) Moreover, the discussion ended up focusing less on our initial query about whether or how to expand the GCB, and more on two more basic questions: First, are citizen perceptions of corruption reflective of reality? And second, can information about citizen corruption perceptions still be useful even if they are not accurate?

Because these debates may be of interest to many of this blog’s readers, and because TI is still hoping to get input from a broader set of experts on these and related questions, we would like to share a brief summary of the workshop exchange on these core questions. Continue reading

Sextortion Victims Are Not Guilty of Bribery

On this blog, I have repeatedly called for the anticorruption community to put greater emphasis on fighting sexual corruption around the world. I have argued that a police officer demanding sex in order to perform (or not perform) an official function is a form of bribery; in a few cases, officials have been charged with and convicted of bribery or official misconduct for sexual corruption.

Characterizing this sort of sexual coercion as bribery, however, raises a potential problem: In typical monetary corruption cases, it is possible to prosecute the bribe giver as well as the bribe receiver. Does that mean that the private citizen (almost always a woman) from whom sexual favors are extorted by a public official could be deemed to have “paid” an unlawful bribe? Unfortunately, the idea of charging victims of sexual corruption with bribery is not too far-fetched. In one New York case, two police officers demanded sex from a female motorist if she wanted to avoid arrest (for drugs found in her car); at the officers’ trial, the jury was instructed that the woman was an accomplice as a matter of law to bribe receiving. The appellate court wrote that the test for whether the woman can be considered an accomplice is whether she “theoretically could have been convicted of any crime based on at least some of the same facts that must be proven in order to convict the defendant.” And because the woman in this case acquiesced to the officers’ demands, she met the definition of an accomplice to bribe receiving. (She was not charged, but according to the court she could have been.)

Thus one potential concern with heeding the call to treat so-called “sextortion” as a corruption offense (that is, soliciting a bribe) is that it could lead to greater use of anti-bribery laws to charge the women from whom sex is extorted. (For example, suppose an American businesswoman had sexual relations with a foreign procurement officer as a quid pro quo for receiving a government contract; the businesswoman in this case could conceivably be charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.) It will be crucial to ensure that this never happens. This can be accomplished through a generous interpretation of coercion as a defense to bribery, informed by the existing American jurisprudence on sexual harassment in the employment setting.

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The Case for Including Sextortion Measures in TI’s CPI

In a recent post, I called for the creation of an international index of sexual corruption. While I believe that such an index will have an effect standing alone, I also believe that such an index, once created, should be included as one of the sources used to construct composite indexes such as Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). As most GAB readers are likely aware, the CPI is does not reflect TI’s own independent assessment of corruption perception, but rather aggregates corruption perception measures from a range of other sources. These other sources, however, all measure perceptions of monetary corruption, such as bribery and embezzlement. But, as TI itself acknowledges, sexual corruption may not correlate well with other forms of corruption, meaning that an index like the CPI may give us an incomplete and misleading picture.

The exclusion of sexual corruption is not TI’s fault; there are currently no global comparative measures of perceptions of sexual corruption for TI to incorporate. Indeed, this gap is precisely why I advocate the creation of an international sexual corruption perceptions index. Of course, even if such an index is created, it would be a separate question whether the results ought to be included in the CPI. I believe it should be.

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Measurement Brings Action: The Need for a Global Sexual Corruption Index

Sexual corruption is a scourge, to varying degrees, in almost every country–from immigration officials demanding sex for green cards, to U.N. soldiers using their power to force themselves on refugees or the local population they are supposed to be protecting, to police officers who demand sex in exchange for not arresting someone. The International Association of Women Judges has been trying to bring attention to this “sextortion” problem, with some limited success: Transparency International (TI) describes sextortion as a form of corruption, and last September’s International Anti-Corruption Conference devoted a high-profile session to discussing this issue.

Yet despite this increasing recognition that this sort of sexual corruption is indeed corruption–the abuse of public power for private gain–the major international indexes used to measure corruption, such as TI’s corruption perception index (CPI) (and the underlying studies used to generate the CPI), focus overwhelmingly on material corruption–principally monetary bribery and embezzlement–not the abuse of public power to extort sexual favors from victims. This is a problem: As we have seen over and over again (both in the corruption context, and in other contexts such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)), for better or worse, national-level country ratings drive action. Right now, a country that wishes to improve its global standing on corruption currently has little incentive to tackle sexual corruption. And there is no separate, easy-to-understand metric that calls attention to how well (or poorly) countries are doing, relative to one another, in addressing that problem.

It is time for that to change. It is time to create a Global Sexual Corruption Index. Continue reading

Corruption By Another Name: The Conviction of a Rapist Cop

Former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted earlier this month of sexually assaulting over a dozen women while on duty. Holtzclaw’s attacks were despicable. Several of his victims reported that he threatened to arrest them if they did not comply with his sexual demands. In some instances, he made clear that his victims had to provide him with sexual gratification to avoid arrest—an explicit quid pro quo exchange. In other cases, including the case that triggered the investigation into his conduct, Holtzclaw did not explicitly solicit a sexual bribe, but there was still an implicit quid pro quo – if the woman let him get away with the assault he indicated that he wouldn’t make trouble for her.

Holtzclaw is a rapist, but he is not only a rapist – he is also a dirty cop. The fact that he was a police officer is not incidental to his crimes: he was able to sexually assault women and get away with it for so long precisely because of his publicly entrusted power. That abuse of public power for private gain is the definition of corruption. As pointed out in a previous post, the currency of corruption can as easily be sex as money. When a police officer, soldier, immigration official, or judge demands sex in exchange for an official action, that is a type of quid pro quo sexual corruption (sometimes called “sextortion” ). When an official “steals” sex from a woman who is less able to resist the attack or to report it due to his publicly entrusted power, that is another type of sexual corruption. In addition to sexual assault, then, Holtzclaw should have also been charged with bribery and official misconduct.

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Fighting Officer Involved Domestic Violence: Preventing Police Corruption from Hindering Investigation

Corruption within police forces is a well-known foe that rears its head in a dozen different ways. Police corruption is often discussed in terms of monetary abuses, from kickbacks to shakedowns to opportunistic theft. Yet these crimes are far from the only form of police misconduct. For example,there have been numerous incidents in which police officers demand sex from prostitutes in exchange for allowing them to continue working–a form of corruption that falls under the general category of “sextortion,” which I wrote about in an earlier post. Less discussed is the corruption that makes it hard to fight sky-high rates of officer involved domestic violence (OIDV).

OIDV is a serious problem, in the United States and (presumably) elsewhere. In the U.S., two studies, one with 728 police officers and one with 425 officers, found that 40% of officers self-reported that in the previous six months they had “lost control and behaved violently towards their spouse.” The comparable rate in the general population is roughly one-fourth as high. The reasons for these high OIDV rates are complex and not fully understood. Some advocates believe that aspects of police training give officers who are violent at home the knowledge and capability to target and intensify their abuse. Others make the case that the amount of violence police are exposed to as part of their job spills over to the home. But irrespective of the causes of OIDV, corruption within the police department makes fighting OIDV significantly more difficult. Continue reading

Beyond Sextortion: How Corruption Uniquely Affects Women

A teenage girl at a refugee camp in Sierra Leone applies to the camp administrator for the food, soap, and medicine she’s entitled to and needs to survive. He falsely tells her that “your name is not on the list” but, instead of demanding money – the classic corruption scenario — he demands sex and she has no choice but to comply.

Corrupt sexual extortion (dubbed “sextortion” by the International Association of Women Judges) is not hypothetical and it is not rare. For example, a report from Human Rights Watch last September found that sexual exploitation by Burundian and Ugandan soldiers in Somalia is “routine and organized.” A refugee in Sierra Leone said “If you do not have a wife or a sister or a daughter to offer the NGO workers, it is hard to have access to aid.” Another refugee said “In this community no one can have access to CSM [a soya nutrient] without having sex first.” According to Transparency International, “the perception that women do not have the money to pay bribes may mean that they are not asked for payments… Instead, compensation may take the form of sexual favours.” This corrupt sexual exploitation often has a far greater adverse effect on victims than monetary corruption, not only because of the act itself–which can be extremely violent and is always a violation of personal dignity and human rights–but also because of the possibility of disease, pregnancy, and, all too frequently, social ostracization, victim blaming, and loss of prospects in the marriage market.

Yet despite occasional references to corrupt sexual exploitation by anticorruption activists, most major anticorruption groups have neglected this topic, focusing instead on monetary corruption. This is a mistake. The anticorruption community should recognize sextortion and other forms of corrupt sexual coercion as a distinctive and devastating form of corruption, deserving of special attention and appropriately-tailored responses. Continue reading