Women fit those categories are dealt a harsher
Posted On May 24, 2019
Women as victims did not get much if any, support from the legal system. Instead, those who report that they have been assaulted or raped were believed to be dishonest, deceptive and at fault of their own victimisation, and therefore, are quick to be dismissed and ignored; continuing their cycle of victimisation and inequality. Furthermore, due to the nature of the criminal justice system and their extension of male theories onto females, they came to be handled in the same manner, however, they were regarded in different ways. Girls were still expected to behave differently to men in the court system. Where men were encouraged to come off as strong individuals in court, women were expected to do the opposite; appear weak. The criminal justice system, as it is irritated males governing females, deemed to treat them the way they treated male offenders; creating a double standard in their treatment. According to Lakey (Evans, 2018), the criminal justice system adopted a resentful approach to female lawbreakers, showing them no compassion, and unsurprisingly, gave them punitive sentences as they strayed away from their accepted vulnerable positions. As a result, police, courts, and prison systems saw an increase of female offenders. As women were placed in institutions designed for men, they were not given the care and consideration required and instead, they were brutalised. Assault, maltreatment, cruelty, forced isolation for extended periods of time, as well as force-fed medications, are the conditions that girls were familiar with when entering the penal system (Chesney-Lind and Pasko, 2004). It was not until the 1839 Prison Act that females and males were to be incarcerated in separate facilities (Evans, 2018).It is argued by Mannheim that females are treated with more compassion by the legal system, but this is only the case when they satisfy society’s image of how they should behave and act. For example, they should be considered ‘normal’ women, ladylike and follow the accepted rules society set for them (Heidenshohn and Silvestri, 1996). Therefore, only show leniency to prepossessing women, those who may break down in tears on the stand, those viewed as good mothers and those who lost their husbands. Unfortunately, court systems did not treat women any better. Instead, those who do not fit those categories are dealt a harsher hand. Lack of information and support is provided to them, causing their involvement with the system to be distressing and alarming as the majority of them do not know the procedures of the court, to begin with (when to rise, take a seat or to speak), let alone the language and verdicts taking place (Heidensohn and Silvestri, 1996); especially as it is likely to be their first time entering court. However, they are still expected to act in a certain manner while in court: be submissive to whatever comes their way- unlike boys, who are anticipated to hold more power over the court proceedings. Moreover, girls in system face double deviance for the crime committed as well as going against society’s expectations of them as they engage in activates accepted for boys: drinking and going out late at night. In addition, the criminal justice system tends to sexualise women’s behaviour, exaggerating the extent of their offences, resulting in more punitive sentences, regardless of the negative impacts caused by their imprisonment. According to Skykes (Heidensohn and Silvestrori, 1996), not only do they lose their freedom, everyday conveniences, resources, contact with members of the opposite sex, independence and safety; not to mention the detachment from their children- making it a very difficult transgression for them to undergo. It was not until the emergence of feminism that people became aware of the discrimination women faced by the criminal justice system and society. Feminists revealed the system’s deceit in the portrayal of female offenders. Society’s comprehension on what was known about them was not based on evidence, but rather the beliefs of a patriarchal world (McIvor, 2004). Radical feminism, for example, revealed the abuse girls face from a young age because of their bodies and how boys are taught that they have the right to violate them. On the other hand, socialist feminism disclosed the discrimination women faced in the workplace (poor working conditions and low wages) to ensure they remain in their domestic positions and validate their need for the support of the men in their lives (Evans, 2018). Where obeying their husband’s demands becomes the only way to pay them back and guarantee a comfortable way of living. Therefore, feminism shed light on the controls it managed to have on girls by simply sexualising their actions (Chesney-Lind and Pasko, 2004), and revealing female criminality as a mechanism to terminate their inequality. For instance, the suffragettes believed that the justice system’s main goal was to suppress women and their voice by convicting them for peaceful protests, mistreating them as prisoners (hunger strikes) and tainting their image in the media and therefore, throughout communities. As a result, they adopted aggressive methods as a way of fighting back and getting their voices heard (Heidensohn and Silvestri, 1996). Moreover, feminists influenced a new philosophical approach to males and their masculinities, demanding alternative theories regarding their criminality other than what was previously accepted- biological determinism. Prior to this, men lashing out and dealing with others in an aggressive way was accepted as a norm as they are ‘men’ who are physically built to act in such a way. Hence, feminism challenged them to face up to the inequality they cause for women as a result of their actions (Evans, 2018). Therefore, groups were set up for boys to share their ideas and beliefs on their behaviours, to examine the depth of societal influence on their everyday lives, where new concepts of how a man should behave emerged. They no longer believed that they should be tough, insensitive, or misogynistic, instead, they should be gentlemen who care about what happens to women, be family men who are involved in the lives of their spouses and children and desire a world of equality (Evans, 2018). Furthermore, during the 60’s, feminists acknowledged the lack of consideration of women in criminological studies and took matters into their own hands. Now, there is an abundance of feminist research and hypotheses, where new ideas and concepts of the criminal- especially the female offender have come to rise (Morris and Gelsthrope, 2008). As general theories of crime paid close attention to the behaviour of men, feminist criminology built on the critiques and missing aspects of such theories and as a result, numerous forms of perspectives emerged: radical, Marxist, socialist, liberal feminism etc… These approaches allowed feminists to investigate the extent of the inequalities females face in their everyday lives due to preconceived patriarchal ideologies and recognise the truth about their subordination. Consequently, this resulted in a refocus on girls as victims of oppression as rape, abuse by intimate partners, and sexual coercion by male co-workers are some examples of the issues they face, however, as mentioned above, the authorities did not take such accusations seriously until now. As theories of injustice developed, so did the need for alterations in the criminal justice system and the treatment of offenders. New methods of law and punishment were needed to be developed in order to effectively handle criminals of both sexes (Evans, 2018). Although females received some legal protection, the criminal justice system failed to shelter those in need of the most protection; prostitutes. Although the Sex Discrimination Act made it illegal to discriminate against a person due to their sex, they criticised those who choose to sell their bodies, refusing to acknowledge the desperation they are in for a source of income. As they are no equal pay between men and women and female employment is not enough to pay the bills, some have no choice but to prostitute themselves in an attempt to achieve the same income as their male counterparts (Heidensohn and Silvestri, 1996). According to Cook (McIvor, 2004), women commit crimes to escape their injustice. For instance, those who steal do so to align with society’s view that women should be up-to-date with fashion, or those who commit murder do so as it is usually the only way to escape their abuser. In conclusion, as criminology was developed by male theorists and focused on men, due to the excess of male offenders, the criminal justice system lacked the knowledge on how to deal with female criminals. Therefore, police, courts, and prison systems were inadequate to deal with them, treating them in the same manner as they do with male offenders. As women who commit crimes were going against the norm of how a woman should act, they were punished more punitively. However, it was not until the emergence of feminism that the criminal justice system’s methods were questioned and challenged. The inclusion of women in studies allowed for the acknowledgement of women as victims of oppression in the hands of patriarchy and gave women a voice where they were silenced before. In addition, feminism shed light as to why females become involved in criminalities; as a mechanism of survival in a society where girls are expected to look act behave in preconditioned manners.