Women involved in the mafia organization have been portrayed for years in the media, through Hollywood films and various newspapers as silent, cowed creatures draped in black. Their lives are dominated by the running of the home and children. Unseeing, unthinking, they ignore the violence that is rife within their lives and only break they silence at the graveside to express themselves over the death of a husband, son or brother.
However, recently new pieces of evidence have come to the forefront to suggest otherwise. The question now is has this involvement of women in mafia organizations been around since the existence of the Mafia, and only now come into the limelight due to the changes in investigations and technology, or is it a new occurrence brought about by equality catching up with mafia and the need to improve within a modernizing world? I would say it is a bit of both.
The role of women within the mafia is likely to have been a lot more liberal than previously thought, with women warranting a lot more trust than they have been credited for. However, there is just no substantial evidence to prove this, as for years it has been impossible to get any sort of insight in to what is considered one of the most secretive organizations in the world. With recent changes in society and changes in the mafia itself, over the last couple of decades more and more people have spoken out about the Mafiosi.
Also improvements in policing and investigating have made it possible to gain access into the previously impenetrable world of its members. The mafia has traditionally operated as a secret society for men, and therefore as an organization its outlook upon women suggests that women are too be honored and respected as wives but dominated and excluded as women. The roles for the females are to carry on with their every day lives of caring for the children and their welfare and to keep the home for the male.
One could say that women within the mafia had the same roles as traditionally women in the 18th century outside of the mafia, the one big difference was that they weren't to ask questions or know anything to do with there husbands or boyfriends doings in terms of his involvement with the mafia. This was strictly adhered to as women were seen as untrustworthy. It was considered that women could not keep any secrets, and to speak out of any mafia business was against the mafia rule of silence- the omerta.
This is how it was and how it has seen to be since the emergence of the mafia pre-1800, until now. Over the last 30 years the involvement of women in mafia activities has increased, mainly due to 2 developments. Firstly, the mafia's expansion of illegal activities and the rising numbers of male members being in prison, which has brought about the need for the mafia to employ more people, including women. Secondly, the transformation of women's status from a legal viewpoint and the changing perspective of the Italian criminal justice system toward women involved in the mafia.
Previously criminal investigators, magistrates and scholars have not paid any attention to the role that the women, labeling them as wives and mothers ignorant to the activities going on around them. Naturally the mafia exploited this and used women as they were less liked to be recognized or restricted by the police. In 1996 women were for the first time recognized when they were included in a parliamentary report on organized crime. Since then, their role within the mafia has been highlighted.
In 1990 only one woman had ever been prosecuted for mafia related crimes, by 1995 this number had risen to 89. Similarly the number of women reported for either possessing or trafficking drugs increased from 37 to 422 and women charged for recycling money rose from 15 to 106. These figures clearly show that female activity within the underworld has increased; therefore it is easy for one to think that their role within the mafia organization must be changing.