Women and Crime

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Traditionally throughout the history criminology has been dominated by study of male both criminal behaviour and victimisation. Indeed, the majority of criminological theories and studies are mainly arguing about male deviance and criminality, mentioning nothing or very little about the role of gender in crime. That also means that female victimisation was minimised almost completely or ignored (Chesney-Lind et al., 2004). Using legitimate statistics and some criminological theories, this essay will show extend of a gender gap in crime and try to explain reasons of this gap.

The reason why criminology mainly focused on male offenders is pretty obvious – majority of criminal offences is done by men and women tend to be much less involved in any type of crime. Many studies and statistics show that men have higher rates of crime and offending than women, with the gender gap being highest for serious violent crimes and lowest for minor property crime and drug use. In fact the only two major categories of crime to which women make substantial contribution is shoplifting and prostitution. Using data of a group of people born in 1953, the Home Office estimated that by the age of 46, 33 per cent of males had received at least one conviction compared with 9 per cent of women (Newburn, 2007). There is a similar pattern to younger age groups, 9 per cent of women born in 1958 had received a conviction by the age of 40, matched with 32 per cent of men (Newburn, 2007). According to Barclay and Tavares (1999) about 1 per cent of all females will have received a conviction by their mid-40s, compared to 7 per cent of men. Using official statistics of Ministry of Justice (2006), compiled annually in England and Wales, we can outline other details. This data helped to realise the rise of female crime. Indeed during 1970s and 1980s there was an increased offending among women. One popular and persuasive argument explains that this trend is in some way linked with female emancipation (Newburn, 2007). Although their theories are heavily criticised, Simon (1975) and Adler (1975) suggest that the changes that took place in the labour market and within home had an impact not only on women’s legitimate doings, but also on their illegitimate actions. They both found connection between women liberation movement and the female crime rate, suggesting that because women become more equal to man, crime rates will converge. Carol Smart (1976) argues that there is evidence that increases in female offending long pre-date anything that might be identified as liberation movement. Box and Hale (1983) suggested that female crime rate was made of property crime and probably was a result of economic marginalisation. Statistics also point out that boys and girls have different peak age of known offending. Estimated criminal peak age for girls is approximately 14-15, and for boys slightly higher- 18, although according to Home Office data, the peak age of known male offenders in 1971 was 14 years old and grew afterwards. This figure indicates that youth is most criminal age for both genders and males takes much longer to ‘grow’ out of crime. It is important to remember that in criminology official statistics are not completely trust worthy, as they do not show us the full picture of crime, because they represent only the end product of series of decisions, like whether or not report or record a crime (Hale et al., 2009). Murgatroyd (2000) suggests that official statistics are not gender neutral and that leads to a tendency of gender dimension to be hidden through measurement and conceptual difficulties and that leads to gaps in information. These gaps may come from cultural norms and expectations regarding female and male behaviour and characteristics. This view leads to the idea that it is the perception of crime as a male activity that may affect overall picture of women and men as perpetrators of crime (Murgatroyd, 2000). This perception can be a reason why...
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