Critically evaluate feminist explanations of female criminal behaviour.
The involvement of females in crime and as the committers of crime was once a rare phenomenon but in recent years a dramatic increase has been seen all over the world. In England and Wales statistics have shown between 1994 and 2006 female crimes have steadily increased and have since continued to do so (MOJ 2009). Many sociological explanations and interpretations have arisen to coincide this surge in female offending as to understand its recent development in society. This assignment will look at different feminist explanations and critically evaluate them and their value in understanding female crime.
In contemporary society women still commit less crimes than men but their impute to crime statistics therefore their crime committal has risen dramatically compared to where is was and steadily stayed for many years. Society and male sociologists have developed different theories and views over the years for coping with female criminal behaviour. In the 16th Century there was the demonic theory, the idea of women who commit crime or act in deviant ways as being ‘evil’ or ‘witches’ resulting in wide spread witch hunts and burnings at the steak. (Vito & Maahas, 2011). This can be seen in modern day society when female criminals are portrayed in the media. This theory links with the naturalist view of women by society; the idea that women are seen as natural care givers, mothers and nurturers and any other type of behaviour is ‘unnatural’ and feared by the greater society. Lombroso (1876) created the 'mad or bad' theory to categorise female crime, suggesting the reasoning and logic behind female deviance could only be explained as them being mentally unhinged or fundamentally bad natured and of an 'evil' disposition. This perception that women may be mad because they dared to go against their natural biological givens such as 'passivity' and a 'weakness of compliance' appears to originate from the view that women who conform as pure, obedient daughters, wives and mothers benefit society and men (Feinman, 1994).
The traditional and most common thought of view is the biological which suggests all female crime is gender related often by sexual deviance. The main example of this being prostitution. The biological view closely relates to Darwin’s theories who first suggested woman are less evolved than men, causing them to be deviant. This biological theory of female criminal behaviour being of sexual deviance is the most traditional and still commonly thought in relation to female crime, the main being prostitution. However, in recent years female criminality has spread into more areas. In fact it has risen so much so that in some crimes females where found to outnumber men. In 2009 the Ministry of Justice found that when comparing male and females found guilty of indictable offences between 2007-2009, females came highest in all of these categories; robbery, fraud, theft and handing stolen goods and criminal damage (MOJ, 2010). This rise is female crime is reflected in the population of women in prison. In the 1970’s the female population was just over 1,000 which steadily rose to around 1,600 in 1990 then shot up to 4,500 in 2002 which has been the highest recording of female inmates. The March 2012 prison population for women was 4,218 with male at 83,313 (Berman,2012). The government has recognised this rise in female criminal behaviour with the Home Affairs Select Committee making the statement, “Whilst the Government has said that it wishes to constrain the overall growth in prisoner numbers, the sharp rise in women prisoners would appear to deserve particular attention. The vast majority of these women are in prison for non-violent offences and have never been a danger to the public.” (Berman, 2012)
This refers to whilst there is have being a rise female crime the majority of female crime behaviour has been ‘non violent’ such as fraud,...
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