The global crime rate increases day by day at a highly accelerated rate. Criminology is a science based on the understanding of crime, policy and social justice. In the sense of applying theoretical knowledge to practical experience, it strengthens the work of law in practical lives. Criminology examines various fields like the behaviour of people who commit the crime, reasons why people commit a crime, the effect of crime on society and methods to prevent crime. The main goal of criminology is to find the cause of committing the crimes and the ways to prevent them. It examines the deviant behaviour of individuals who commit a crime and the impact on society at large.
Mostly crime is considered to be man dominant area in our society. Women are considered to be of a polite and spiritual character and they are considered to be the foundations of a family. Feminist criminology developed as a school in criminology because the major criminology theories were for men. It is a study mainly that focuses on women offenders, women victims and the impact of female criminality in society. Feminist criminology includes how women are ignored and stereotyped in criminology. Women committing murder, robbery, theft, and dacoity are easily escaped by the laws protecting them. Women committing the crime are generally stereotyped as mentally unstable. Claire M. Renzetti is the first person who brought the concept of feminist criminology1 where the author mentions the development of criminology and examines the diversity of feminism.
BRANCHES OF FEMINIST CRIMINOLOGY
Liberal feminism concentrates more on political rights and equality. Liberal feminists’ main aim was gender equality in the field of education, workspace, marriages etc. Their main aim was that women should not be dependent on men for their living, they should also provide for their families. They also support reproductive rights such as abortion rights and strive towards ending sexual harassment against women. This increased the opportunities for women in society. As the women tend to go out for full-time jobs and not be dependent on men, they too might end up committing crimes.
Radical feminism does not oppose men, it opposes the system of patriarchy. It raised the consciousness regarding women’s suppression and it focuses on sexuality. They view male power as the cause of all problems. They argue that men tend to control women, and there are more female victims of male violence. Men always desire to control women and women being oppressed tend to commit crimes so that they can be relieved from the male dominant society.
Marxist feminism tends to argue about economic stability. Economic relation brings gender inequality where men are paid more comparative than women. Women are prevented from participating in all aspects of society as they are controlled by men as well as capital. Crime against women is common in capitalist society as higher economic imbalance creates higher gender inequality that causes violence against women.
Socialistic feminism correlates the relation between class and gender. It mainly draws many concepts of Marxist feminism where crimes against women happen not due to patriarchy but the economic dependence on men. There is discrimination against women in the workspace.
Postmodern feminism mainly focuses on the de-stabilisation of patriarchal norms and living in a gender-neutral society so that the male dominance in the society will be lesser and crimes against women will also decrease.
Ecofeminism is another branch of criminology where it is stated that women have a special biological and spiritual relationship. Like the exploitation of nature, women are exploited by men. A line of defence is also set up as against the domination of men on the planet2.
THEORIES ON FEMINIST CRIMINOLOGY
Many stereotypical theories like Sigmund Freud’s Theory suggest that women commit crimes due to penis envy and they thought that they were not equal to men so they started committing crimes he said that female crime is just like longing for a penis. In Strain theory3, it was stated that most people try to achieve their goals but in order to achieve their goals faster, they tend to commit crimes. Feminists rejected this theory because women were not as financially independent as men to have their own goals and they commit far lesser crimes than men.
In societal disorganization theory, due to environmental circumstances or due to some cultures and depending upon who lives where; this was not accepted by feminists as it was stated that women under the control of men tend to commit fewer crimes. Control theories4 are not widely accepted because they focus on the class to which people belong and their tendency to commit the crime by including factors like attachment, educational commitment, academic involvement and social rules.
IMPACT OF FEMINIST CRIMINOLOGY
Neglecting female offenders, it is generally assumed that men are only the offenders. It is considered a tradition that women are soft and they do not commit any crimes. Women who challenge the patriarchal gender role structure are viewed as unruly women worthy of punishment. As far as the treatment of females within the criminal justice system is concerned, females should not be given lenient sentences as compared to that men when both people are involved in the same crime, just because she is a female.
The Justice system always refers that women are always society-centric and they have lots of responsibilities in the family as well as in society as a whole. So, women are given lesser punishment than men. Feminist criminology asks why women are supposed to be a victim every time & are supposed to commit fewer crimes than men just on the basis of their gender. According to a WHO5 report, 30% of women experience physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives and these violent acts are done by their intimate partner. Feminist criminology makes us think from different perspectives and makes us connect our ideas and help us to conclude a better solution in solving these problems.
FEMINIST CRIMINOLOGY IN THE 21st CENTURY
There is a huge acceptance of feminist criminology nowadays. There can be lots of research and challenges that can be taken up in this field. The criminal justice system thinks differently about female offenders in the 21st century where there are several concepts and angles to perceive female offenders. Feminist criminology focuses on the concept that why men and women differ in the path of crime using sex as a control variable; they determine the factors conducting much research that predicts female criminality. This is still needed in the 21st century because empowering people is the most important and many people are still not aware of many crimes.
Feminist criminology also forms a global perspective and they study across the world regarding this subject. The focus on crime against women is an international issue faced by all women around the world. Abuse of women like child marriages, cheap labour and some traditional practices like female genital mutilation is the focus area in which feminist criminology must conduct further studies. Criminal justice policies are not the same across the world where women are severely punished for violating gender norms, they are often treated as offenders rather than victims too in some aspects.
Feminist Criminology is constantly developing and it has undergone various amount of changes. Though still people lack awareness of the feminist criminology concept, there are still places where women are punished for violating gender norms. There are only certain theories and limited publishments in journals regarding feminist criminology. Violence against women is not considered to be a new phenomenon. The study regarding feminist criminology is not explored in depth. The ideas of women thinking about social roles, ideas, and gender norms can also be brought here. Gender-based issues in the criminal justice delivery system can also be given a much wider discussion. Feminist criminologists can look upon the hindrances in achieving their goals so that they can help female offenders and victims to get a better justice delivery.
- 1st Edition Routledge Bo.
- LANE, P. (1998). Ecofeminism Meets Criminology. Theoretical Criminology, 2(2), 235–248.
- Merton Strain theory of Deviance 1938.
- Hirschi’s social bond theory.
- Global and Regional estimates of violence against women, WHO Report, https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/85239/9789241564625_eng.pdf;jsessionid=A79DF84C464E0F3B278B3A87C6F44407?sequence=1.
This article is written by Sree Lekshmi B J, a third-year law student of Sastra University, Thanjavur.