Gender and crime

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Gender and crime
Gender and patterns of crime
According to Carol Smart, writing in 1979 there are two reasons why there had been up
until that point a comparatively small amount of research into female criminality: firstly
women did in fact commit less crimes and secondly because the crimes that they were
known to regularly commit tended to be more trivial (i.e. less violent) than their male
counterparts. While there have been numerous studies into female criminality since Smart
was writing there is still markedly less research into the importance of gender than other
social factors such as class and race despite there being considerable evidence from what
data does exist that gender may be the most important factor influencing whether or not a
person ends up being convicted.
Official crime statistics and gender
As recent as 2010 crime statistics have demonstrated that 82% of offences recorded were
committed by males, meaning that they are apparently four times as likely to be commit
crimes and be convicted of females. More minor offences such as theft and burglary were
the most common forms of crime amongst both males and females, accounting for 53% of
female offenders and 31% of males. If we simply take the numbers of those convicted the
figure for those who received sentences stands at 21% for females and 79% for males.
Convictions for crimes such as handling stolen goods and forms of theft were most common
among women and the least common were for sexual offences, amounting to just 1.2%.
According to the crime and justice section of the 2011 Social Trends survey there is a large
disparity in severity of sentences when it comes to gender as well, with only 20 of 382 life
sentences being handed to women in the year 2010 in the UK.
It is not just in the UK that men have been recorded as vastly more criminal than women
and the trend has existed for a long time in terms of both arrest and conviction rates. In the
USA the imprisonment rate is as wide as 943 men per 100,000 of the population as
opposed to only 67 women. The average percentage of women in the prison population
ranged from 2% in Georgia and Northern Ireland to 7% in Portugal with an average of
merely 5%.
Gender bias and criminal justice
Otto Pollack (1950) argued that throughout history there has been a massive
underestimation of the amount of crime carried by women as the forms of crime that they
usually indulged in were likely to go unreported: first amongst these is shoplifting, followed
by illegal backstreet abortions that are almost always carried out by women, crimes
committed by female domestic servants such as theft from the home in which they work
largely were unreported, the many unreported instances of prostitution in which the male
client were more often than not considered to have committed no crime. He concluded with
a claim that has been seen by most researchers as quite absurd which is that those women

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Pollack argued that the reasons for the lack of recorded female crime is that (1)
those within law enforcement tend to chivalrously give women the benefit of the doubt, or at
least let them off more easily than they would men who had committed the same crime (2)
he takes a biological determinist approach in arguing that women have natural advantages
when it comes to being able to conceal what crimes they have committed because traditional
taboos about issues such as menstruation have meant that…read more

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Carlen provides additional support for Heidensohn's arguments with her research interviews
into Scottish judges who claimed that they were less likely to punish those women who they
deemed to be good wives and mothers but were more inclined to be harsher on those who
lived in unconventional households such as those who were single or without children or
whose children were in state care.…read more

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critics of the chivalry thesis have argued that these figures could simply be a result of men
committing more serious crimes than women. Hillary Allen (1987) attempted to produce a
study that took account of this possibility however she discovered that even when the form
of offence was taken into account there was stillan apparent bias, as in the case of motoring
offences where 54% of women and 77% of men received fines.…read more

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Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act (2004) is further evidence of political
attempts to give more consideration to the seriousness and often devastating effects that
experience of domestic violence can have on sufferers and in terms of practical changes the
Act extended police powers so that they had the right to arrest people for common assault
for the first time.…read more

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Those such as Heidensohn who attack Adler's standpoint have done so by pointing out that
crime rates have mainly risen among those women for whom female liberation has had least
impact, such as working class women, and those who are more criminal tend to score higher
on tests of traditional femininity and those are more masculine tend to also commit less
crime.…read more

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For Carlen the theory that women's liberation was responsible for rising crime rates was
false because the women that she interviewed were in social groups that had been least
affected by changes in the labour market or elsewhere in society, indeed as they had got
older they had found that there opportunities had steadily lessened.
Carlen turns to the doctrine of control theory, first developed by the US sociologist T.…read more

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They reject the gender deal because of a failure in their early socialisation to make them
accepted their roles as `guardians of domestic morality' which for the majority of women
acts as an ideological control on any feelings that may lead to them to commit crime, an
ideology that is often supported by more physical controls on daughters by fathers, and on
wives by husbands.…read more

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Like Carlen Heidensohn bases her analysis on control theory, arguing that because there are
greater social restrictions placed on women this makes it harder for them to deviant and thus
leads to them commuting less crime. She sees these controls as existing at home, work and
in wider social life.…read more

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Evaluation: Heidensohn's explanation for female deviance has been criticised for its tendency
to overgeneralise from samples that are largely of juvenile offenders to produce a theory to
explain criminality amongst all women and for a lack of supporting evidence from empirical
research, however given the noticeable inequalities that continue to exist between men and
women it could be expected that her argument is a fairly plausible explanation.…read more


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