Women and Crime

The recognition of the association of gender and crime is an important milestone in the development of criminology. When feminist criminology emerged during the last decade of twentieth century, there were also accusations that development of gender specific theories would hinder the development of criminological theories. Gender specific criminological studies hasn’t come a long way, which is evident from its very little presence in legal and judicial circles. However the difference in social attitudes, delinquent behavior, types of crimes committed; all emphasize a distinct gender base.

A clear understanding of female criminality has also been hindered by the low crime detection rates and under reporting of women offenders. Women and Crime 3 The feminist criminology can be rightly said to have matured during the 1990s, despite feminist ideas of revolt being in existence for decades. However, some social criminologists consider the body as being independent from the mind, for understanding crime engagement. They consider the body as having no importance, from the view point of crime. There has been great controversy over the ability of current theories to address female deviance.

The theories were mostly developed and tested for males. Criminologists have argued that these theories are related to men and should not be used to understand delinquent behavior of females. It has been suggested by theoretical criminologists that there is qualitatively different fundamentals which give rise to male and female delinquency. There has also been a parallel argument for a more general, theoretical framework free from gender base. They considered gender based theories to affect the development of deviance theories. The relationship between crime and gender has been immense throughout the long period of offence observation.

Men and women have differing offence rates and offence patterns, both as offenders and as victims. Although generally speaking, criminal law is the same for men and women, there are some exceptions and opportunities that can be favorably interpreted for women. While homosexual acts among men have been included under criminal law as crime, lesbian acts are not recognized as crimes. Male and female prostitution are differently seen from the legal point. Until 1925, women charged with crime committed in the presence of their husband were treated as acted on compulsion, under the English law.

Women and Crime 4 For forming gender specific theories it is important to look at the factors that need to be considered while forming them. Delinquency in runaway females is attributed to childhood sexual victimization that is not associated among males. Women are controlled differently in our society compared to the males, as female attitude is closely watched within her family and female sexuality is policed vigorously compared to males (Abbot and Wallace). This perhaps explains why older females are not much involved in crimes like older males.

The involvement of girls in deviant groups is limited and women gang members are generally under the strict control of their male equivalents Here male domination or patriarchy is the main cause of crime, with feminists wanting more attention to their voice. Certain problems during childhood are responsible for a girl’s introduction to drug use, youth homelessness, survival sex, prostitution and other more severe crimes (Lind, 1997). Criminologists are of the opinion that women are always less likely to commit crimes than their males and this gender gap is considered universal.

Women’s role in crime has been largely associated with a big amount of indifference compared to men, in criminology. Women have been traditionally expected to perform their domestic family roles as obedient wives, daughters. They were mainly more perceived to be sexual objects in a male dominated society, with primary interests in homemaking and caring, till the end of the century. Those who fell short of meeting these requirements, including involvement in activities associated with men, indulging in criminal activities were considered unstable and psychologically affected.

This indifference in criminology can be Women and Crime 5 mainly attributed to men’s identity as the dominant social player associated with force of character while women are associated with their weaknesses and passive role. These are emphasized in the approach of criminology to many of the crimes committed by women, and similar crimes by men. Women were viewed and labeled with reference to men (Young 1990). Men and all that associated to men are the norm, it being deviant for women. Gender difference was one of the ways normal was segregated from the deviant.

The study of women and crime may be attributed to the efforts of Elizabeth Fry who during the early nineteenth century advocated for separate prisons for women and rehabilitation for them. Hard female criminals were considered to have the equivalent criminal attributes of their male counterparts plus the worst qualities of a woman. Criminologists like Lombroso and Ferrero indicated that cunningness and deceitfulness were part of the women criminal profile, which was absent in males. This suggested that women criminals had genetically more male characteristics than female characteristics and so were biologically abnormal.

Women, who were considered criminals or socially deviant from typical standards of normal women, were considered affected and unwell, requiring treatment. Some criminal theorists, were of the opinion that criminality in women was mostly induced by the social conditions they are exposed to and also linked to pathology, than being induced genetically. The criminal character is brought into a woman by appropriate social exposure from young age and the resultant behavior development. Owing to the low crime detection rates and under reporting of women offenders, masking of character in female criminality is not fully understood.

The crimes Women and Crime 6 committed by most women incorporate less violence like shoplifting, which induce police and judges to be more humane and show leniency (Kelta, 2003). Women take advantage of their gender, making it difficult for the implementation of equal justice. The difference in the social position of men and women may be attributed to the dependency of women on men. Crimes committed by women can be generalized as being only a small percentage of all crimes committed, with the crimes being fewer, less serious and not likely to be repeated, compared to their male counterparts.

As a result of this, women formed a very small percentage of prisoners under lockup. Women generally do not commit violent crimes, although violence by women occurs mostly within the family, as an ultimate reaction to male violence. The opportunities that women have to commit crimes are similar to men but are limited by several factors. For instance, burglary and house breaking occur mainly at nights by solitary men. A woman moving around alone at the thick of the night not only attracts attention but also invites danger to herself, thus rendering these crimes as almost impossible by woman..

This gives them very less opportunity to commit crimes. Thus women are very less involved in crimes like white collar crime, fraud etc,. Shoplifting is one crime by women, which is closely linked to male crimes, where women and men have equal chances of committing the crime. However, these factors are fast changing in the bigger context of globalization and cannot be universally applied, any further. Women and Crime 7 While the need to understand and interpret crime and conviction, based on gender is a mater of debate, one thing to be emphasized here is the treatment of women prisoners.

Since the biology and condition of women are different, they cannot always be on par with male prisoners. Pregnant prisoners need to be free of shackles, while exclusive arrangements need to be made for women prisoners with children. Lady police officers and corrections officers are also needed to tune in, to fit into the gendered criminal justice system, although their lives are very different from that of women offenders or victims. Women were allowed to take up positions of police patrol officers and corrections officers only in the 1970s (Goodstein, 2000).

Until now, deviance in women have been studied and formulated by considering biological, psychological, morality within home and family settings. Thus these studies are restricted to individual aspects and limited to attachments and conflicts. The focus of these studies is based on the widely accepted principle that deviance in women results from personal psychological conditions like inferiority complex or depression. (Giordano, 1996). Today, gender based studies and validated conclusions are considered important, given the high proportion of female offenders in both the juvenile system and the adult justice system.

However till date, the gender-based studies in criminology are far from adequate. The social learning theory of criminology is organized around four major concepts namely differential association, differential reinforcement/punishment, definitions, and imitation. Here the individuals are exposed to and learn the factors favorable and unfavorable to criminal and legal behavior, they then balance the social / Women and Crime 8 nonsocial rewards and punishments associated with the behavior and take to imitation. A difference in gender attitude is also seen in the pattern of this socialization.

Socialization among men tends men to become more aggressive and more likely to solve problems through violence. On the contrary, socialization among women tends women to be less aggressive and seek non-violent solutions to problems. Organized and professional crime is also heavily based on gender. Males see the crimes they commit as being too dangerous for women and may even not be willing to accept women as their bosses When females are given more freedom, they are more likely to get engaged in criminal activities leading to higher levels of criminalization and arrests, which currently appears to be the trend.

Women and Crime 9 REFERENCES Giordano J, (1996), Ethnicity and family Therapy; Guilford Press; Abbot P and Wallace C. , (1990) An Introduction to Sociology: Feminist Perspectives, Routledge (UK) Goodstein L. , (2000), Women, Crime, and Criminal Justice – an Overview Lind M. C. , (1997), The Female Offender-Girls, Women and Crime; Sage Publications; 1997 Kelta, (2003), Crime and Gender [Electronic Version] Retrieved on 29th April, 2008 from http://www. keltawebconcepts. com. au/ecrgend1. htm Young, A. (1990) Femininity in Dessent, Routledge (UK)