This Article is written by Prakriti Suthar (a third-year law student from Manipal University Jaipur )
Table of Contents
Until the mid-twentieth century, a large portion of the criminological work focused only on male offenders and the criminal justice system responses to male crimes. Although, since the most recent twenty years of the twentieth century, female imprisonment rates expanded quickly, prompting a flood in research on women, girls, the crimes identified with them and the criminal justice system. Feminist criminology idea hence acquired noticeable quality during the profoundly political time of the 1960s and 1970s.
Need of a feminist perceptive in criminology
For years women have been victims of crime. Female writers in the area of criminal science have guided that women, due to their weak mental and biological nature are more bound to be the sufferer of crimes as contrasted with their male partners. Women are bound to capitulate to violations like assault and domestic violence at home among numerous different crimes. Feminists in the area of criminology contend that criminal justice systems have ignored the exploitation of women. They say it is very easy to point out that three out of four women have suffered or will have to suffer crimes against them during their lives. Feminists further contend that these figures have been disregarded thus leading to female exploitation. Before in the past years, women have always suffered in silence against these crimes but over time women have gathered momentum and as a result, an increase in the reporting of these crimes against women has been seen.
The emergence of Female Criminology
The first individual who developed any sort of hypothesis about women and crime is Cesari Lombroso who is the creator of the positivist theory. He along with other men like W.I Thomas and Sigmund Freud believed that women were inferior to men both physically and biologically.
So not only did Lombroso think that women were committing crimes because they were genetic inferiors to the rest of the population, but he also believed that those women who were committing crimes were doing it as a show of masculinity to try to be on an equal playing field as men. This theory has been thrown out for a very long time but we do still see this distinction in gender even today in our criminal justice system. One of the main areas where we can see this is while sentencing; so if a man and a woman commit a crime together and they should be charged with the same thing because they both played equal parts in it. But in reality, the woman usually gets a lesser sentence compared to the men because women are often seen as accessories to crimes, not as people who are masterminds behind them or had any involvement in the planning or seen as caretakers from whom judges and juries don’t want to take away their families and their maternal duties.
Today we are going to be talking about four different theories of feminist criminology.
1) Liberal or Liberation Feminism– This theory was written by two women Frieda Adler and Rita Simon, who believed that as men and women became equal in society, they would also begin committing crimes the same way and at the same rate and hence they should be treated exactly the same when going through the criminal justice system. Now in the year 2021, we’re able to see that their hypothesis was not accurate because as men and women have become more equal in society, women still do not commit crimes the same way that men do. Men and women have biological differences that make them express their emotions in different ways. For example, the way men and women react to strain which is like the stressors in our lives, men tend to act with more of that outward aggression and women tend to act with more self-destructive behaviours and that’s why we see men as the main perpetrators of those violent crimes things like murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Women on the other hand tend to commit more non-violent crimes usually something like larceny which is like shoplifting or some kind of fraud such as welfare fraud.
2) Marxist Feminism– This theory believes that the gender distinction between men and women is a form of exploitation. They say that the institution of marriage is essentially a slave and a master because women are only seen as property and this does have some truth to it originally because when women would take their husband’s last name it is because they thought that women couldn’t do a lot of stuff without their husbands like being there to sign the documents etc. Marx’s feminists believe that everything should be completely equal. The work that we are doing for society, the work that we do at home whether it’s housework or raising children and when they could achieve that equality where everything is completely equal straight down the middle, then men and women would commit crimes at the same rate and the same type of crime because we would all be completely equal and free to express ourselves and commit whatever crimes we want to however we want to, essentially.
3) Radical or Socialist Feminism– This theory suggests that women’s criminal behaviour can be explained by men’s control over women. What this theory really boils down to is that the patriarchy has this hold over women i.e., it suggests that women are not kept safe and not taken seriously when they come out as being a victim. For example, many times a woman doesn’t report a rape or assault against her because nothing would have come out of it or she would be just re-victimized and the person/people who did it wouldn’t be punished accordingly. As we look back to the Brock Turner case where the person raped a girl behind a dumpster when she was unconscious and the judge said that he didn’t want to ruin this young man’s life and so he only gave him six months in jail which he only served three because of good behaviour meanwhile that woman is going to have to deal with that for every single day for the rest of her life.
4) Cultural Difference Feminism– This was written by a woman named Carol Gilligan who believed that men and women should not be treated the same at all and that it was more about equity and not about equality. She believed that women were shaped by an ethic of care and that men were more shaped by justice and rights so she was suggesting that women like to take care of everyone around them but saw taking care of themselves as being selfish. So according to them, women commit crimes to help someone else whether it was their lover or their child or their friend. They do it out of an ethic of care of wanting to help other people. So, Carol Gilligan did not believe that men and women should be treated the same in the criminal justice system because she believed that men and women’s motivations were wildly different on why they committed crimes.
Feminist criminology has been drastically developing and going through certain changes. It can be seen that despite the fact that there have been some publications made on feminist scholarship, it still remains marginalized in numerous aspects. Even we can see that the mainstream journals publication also remains very limited, in the case of textbooks also, as they give extremely insufficient and dubious thoughtfulness towards the feminist criminology and its significance.