The fear for retaliation when fighting corruption

The fear for retaliation when fighting corruption

62% of citizens in the EU believe that government corruption is a big problem in their country, the Global Corruption Barometer from anti-corruption organization Transparency International shows. A follow-up study says only 44% of women in the EU think they can report corruption without fear of retaliation.

“This fear is shared by women from various backgrounds, irrespective of their age, education, how informed they are or whether they live in urban or rural areas. Their perspective is justified by recent experiences of female whistleblowers in Europe”, the report says.

The barometer showed that 3 in 10 pay a bribe or use a personal connection to access public services, equal to 106 million people.

“As one of the largest surveys on corruption in the EU, the barometer highlights the widespread perception that corruption is getting worse, business has overly close ties with government, and officials are rarely punished for corruption.”


To improve the situation for women in the EU wishing to fight correction, the report has suggestions for governments in the EU:

  • Collect, analyse and disseminate gender disaggregated data to identify and address gendered patterns of corruption and reporting, giving special consideration to groups of women that are more vulnerable to corruption.
  • Provide accessible, affordable, safe, effective and gender-sensitive reporting mechanisms that take into consideration the specific challenges women face in the EU when reporting corruption.
  • Create effective and gender-sensitive whistleblowing laws and policies with strong anti-retaliation protections and confidentiality provisions, in line with the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive.
  • Recognise sextortion as a form of corruption, equip corruption reporting mechanisms to handle sextortion cases and provide psycho-social and legal support to victims of physical and sexual violence at all levels of the reporting process and the criminal justice system.
  • Promote the representation of women and groups at risk of discrimination in corruption reporting mechanisms as well as in law enforcement and justice institutions, especially for investigating, prosecuting or adjudicating gender-based violence and sex crimes.

The follow-up study says that unsurprisingly, confronted with the risk of losing their job, being sued by their employer and other reprisals like harassment, many women think twice before calling out wrongdoing.

This includes reporting corruption, which women in the EU do less than men – only 30% of the corruption cases handled by the organisation’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres between 2011 and 2021 in the EU were reported by women.


“Both men and women face potential retaliation when reporting corruption, and there is no evidence that male whistleblowers suffer less severe consequences. However, there are indications that women tend to be more risk-averse than men. The reasons for this vary. Some theorise that these differences may be linked to gender-related social roles. Women, as the largely primary care-givers of children and the elderly, may feel a greater sense of responsibility for those under their care, making them more risk-averse.”

The report says that throughout the world, women are more pessimistic about the outcome of reporting corruption and are less likely to think that appropriate action would be taken in response.


“In Europe, women are significantly less likely than men to believe that ordinary people can make a difference in anti-corruption.”

The report says that inn Europe, 74% of people think that sextortion occurs at least occasionally and 7% of people report either having experienced it directly or knowing someone who has.

“Reporting mechanisms are often ill-equipped to handle the trauma, social stigma and cultural taboos associated with sexual abuse and let victims/survivors down in various ways. Many fail to provide female points of contact for women feeling uncomfortable about reporting abuse to a man”, Transparency International says.

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