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National Law Institute University, Bhopal

IV Trimester

Criminology Project
Gender and Crime: Female Criminality

Submitted to: Submitted by:

Dr. G. S. Bajpai Richa Jain

Professor 2009BALLB54
Table of Contents

 Introduction
 Statement of problem
 Objectives
 Hypothesis
 Method of Study
 Classical explanation to female criminality
 Lombroso and Ferrero
 Sigmund Freud
 Otto Pollack
 Contemporary view
 Patterns of male and female offending
 Physical strength and aggression
 Sexuality
 Access to criminal opportunity
 Motivation
 Conclusion
 Bibliography

Criminology has treated women's role in crime with a large measure of

indifference. The intellectual tradition from which criminology derives its
conception of these sexes maintains esteem for men's autonomy, intelligence
and force of character while disdaining women for their weaknesses of
compliance and passivity. Women who conform as pure, obedient daughters,
wives and mothers benefit men and society. Those women who don't, that is,
they are non-conforming, may simply be one who questions established beliefs
or practices, or one who engages in activities associated with men, or one who
commits a crime. They are seen as 'mad' not 'bad'. These behaviours frequently
lead to interpretations of being mentally abnormal and unstable.

Generally crimes committed by women differ from male criminality. The

differences can be seen in the nature of the crime and its consequences,
combined with the method, crime weapon, and choice of victim. It is difficult to
overlook the fact that crimes committed by women have a more emotional
characteristic then those committed by men. Women are far less likely than men
to commit crime. This pattern seems to hold true all over the world. Only 19%
of known offenders are women.
Statement of problem

To study the difference in crime rates and types of crime committed by both the
sex. And also to study the reasons to criminality in women.
1. To study the female crime rates in comparison to that of male crime rates.
2. To find the reasons to the vast difference in the crime rate as compared to
that males.
3. To find the reasons to the criminal instincts in women.
4. To analyze the type of crime generally committed by women.


It is believed that women being more emotional that is less aggressive and
physically weak, they are supposedly commit less crime.

Method of Study

It is a non doctrinal research based on secondary sources of data.

Classical explanation to female criminality

1. Lombroso and Ferrero wrote a book called, The Female Offender. Their
theories were based on 'atavism'. Atavism refers to the belief that all individuals
displaying anti-social behaviour were biological throwbacks. The born female
criminal was perceived to have the criminal qualities of the male plus the worst
characteristics of women. According to Lombroso and Ferrero, these included
deceitfulness, cunning and spite among others and were not apparent among
males. This appeared to indicate that criminal women were genetically more
male than non-criminal female, therefore biologically abnormal. Criminality in
men was a common feature of their natural characteristics, whereby women,
their biologically-determined nature was opposite to crime. Female social
deviants or criminals who did not act according to pre-defined standards were
diagnosed as pathological and requiring treatment, that is, they were to be cured
or removed.

2. Sigmund Freud offered an explanation of female crime which stated women

are universally not able to fully resolve the repressed desire. They have a great
deal of need for the approval of men, so as a rule they do not risk upsetting them
by committing crimes. The exceptional female who does offend is seen as
suffering from extreme penis envy and, in a desire to be a man, takes an
aggressive, non-conforming attitude that may result in criminal behaviour.

3. Pollak in his landmark book ‘The Criminality of Women’ argues that the
types of crimes women commit include shoplifting, domestic thefts, and theft
by prostitutes, abortions and perjury. He made the point that these crimes are
under-represented in crime statistics for a variety of reasons; easy concealment,
underreporting, embarrassment on the part of male victims, and male chivalry in
the justice system, he provides examples of lower visibility and detection of
female crime to feminine cunning and deceit. The willingness to excuse or
impose a light punishment on female offenders was explained away to male

4.Contemporary view

The majority of women commit crimes for similar reasons, women are not
naturally criminals. Most women are nurturing not violent. Women are driven
to commit crime by factors such as being abused, low socio economic status,
lack of health care, lack of parental guidance, being controlled by someone else,
lack of education and many more factors.

Many of women who commit crime were in abusive relationships in past.

When a woman is abused she can only take it for so long before she breaks. So
many women are oppressed that when they do get a chance to fight back, they
fight with all of their might. Thus women commit crimes because they see no
other choice
Female and Male Patterns of Offending

Patterns of offending by men and by women are notable both for their
similarities and for their differences. Both men and women are more heavily
involved in minor property and substance abuse offenses than in serious crimes
like robbery or murder. However, men offend at much higher rates than women
for all crime categories except prostitution. This gender gap in crime is greatest
for serious crime and least for mild forms of lawbreaking such as minor
property crimes. Many sources provide data that permit comparison of male and
female offending.


The demands of the crime environment for physical power and violence help
account for the less serious nature and less frequent incidence of crimes by
women compared to those by men. Women may lack the power, or may be
perceived by themselves or by others as lacking the violent potential, for
successful completion of certain types of crime or for protection of a major
“score”. Hustling small amounts of money or property protects female
criminals against predators who might be attracted by larger amounts. Real or
perceived vulnerability can also help account for female restriction to solo roles,
or to roles as subordinate partners or accomplices in crime groups. Together,
physical ability and muscle are useful for committing crimes, for protection, for
enforcing contracts, and for recruiting and managing reliable associates.

Women have expanded opportunities for financial gain through prostitution and
related illicit sexual roles. The possibilities in this arena reduce the need to
commit the serious property crimes that so disproportionately involve males.

Although female offenders may use their sexuality to gain entry into male
criminal organizations, such exploitation of male stereotypes is likely to limit
their criminal opportunities within the group to roles organized around female
attributes. The sexual dimension may also heighten the potential for sexual
tension which can be resolved only if the female aligns herself with one man
sexually, becoming “his woman.”

Even prostitution—often considered a female crime—is essentially a male

dominated or -controlled criminal enterprise. Police, pimps, businessmen who
employ prostitutes, and clients—virtually all of whom are male—control, in
various ways, the conditions under which the prostitute works.

3. Access to Criminal Opportunity

The factors like gender norms, social control, etc restricts female access to
criminal opportunity, which in turn both limits and shapes female participation
in crime. Women are also less likely than men to have access to crime
opportunities as a spin-off of legitimate roles and routine activities. Women are
less likely to hold jobs as truck driver, dockworker, or carpenter that would
provide opportunities for theft, drug dealing, fencing, and other illegitimate

Females are most restricted in terms of access to underworld crimes that are
organized and lucrative. Institutional sexism in the underworld severely limits
female involvement in crime groups, ranging from syndicates to loosely
structured groups. As in the upperworld, females in the underworld are
disadvantaged in terms of selection and recruitment, in the range of career paths
and access to them, and in opportunities for tutelage, skill development, and

4. Motivation

Gender norms, social control, lack of physical strength, and moral and relational
concerns also limit female willingness to participate in crime at the subjective
level - by contributing to gender differences in tastes for risk, likelihood of
shame or embarrassment, self-control, and assessment of costs versus rewards
of crime. Motivation is distinct from opportunity, but the two often intertwine,
as when opportunity enhances temptation. As in legitimate enterprise, being
able tends to make one more willing, just as being willing increases the
prospects for being able. Like male offenders, female offenders gravitate to
those activities that are easily available, are within their skills, provide a
satisfactory return, and carry the fewest risks.

Criminal motivations and involvements are also shaped by gender differences in

risk preferences and in styles of risk-taking. For example, women take greater
risks to sustain valued relationships, whereas males take greater risks for
reasons of status or competitive advantage. Criminal motivation is suppressed
by the female ability to foresee threats to life chances and by the relative
unavailability of type scripts that could channel females in unapproved

Scientists have suggested that the brain differences between male and female is
an essential reason why women are more likely to stay out of harm’s way.
Current research has demonstrated that females, on average, have a larger deep
limbic system than males. Due to this, women are more in touch with their
feelings; they have an increased ability to bond and are connected to others.

The relationship between gender differences, and criminal behaviour is complex

and varied, there are no simple answers. A number of factors must be taken into
account, and the environmental influences and cultural traditions can be seen as
the most important ones.

Changing social and economic conditions, environmental influences, cultural

traditions and physiological factors must be taken into account when dealing
with crime. It has only been over the last thirty to forty years that women have
empowered themselves and fought for equality within all areas of society.
Although all have the potential for aggression and compliance, the view that
women are 'other', inferior and unstable because of their hormones and
emotions makes it all too easy to see them, by their very nature, as unstable,
irrational, and neurotic.
Bibliography and Web Resource

 Reference material of criminology, IV Trimester.

 http://www.keltawebconcepts.com.au/ecrgend1.htm
 http://hubpages.com/hub/WHY-DO-WOMEN-COMMIT-CRIME
 http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/309360/why_do_women_com