Gender Crime Differentials

Introduction

Most studies show that females have lesser representation in crime than males. For instance, a research report by Steffensmeier & Allan (2002) begins that: “Females have lower arrest rates than males for virtually all crime categories except prostitution. This is true in all countries for which data are available.” While indeed most scholars may agree with this statement, especially those that have had similar pieces of evidence, Walklate (2004), takes a different perspective and argues out that several factors should be considered when evaluating the gender crime differentials. This paper aims to evaluate Walklate’s (2004) take on crime and gender, deconstructing the notion that women are less represented in crime than men.

Women who commit serious crimes, especially violent ones are highlight highlighted in the public domain and indeed in the media. In fact, people may be surprised to know a woman who commits murder crimes and labelled ‘serial killer’ because it is not the society’s general expectations about women’s criminal behaviour. But, whereas these expectations may be influenced by the available crime statistics, could the statistics be influenced by other events? This is the question that Walklate (2004) raises.

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A major fact about crimes that most people agree with is that men are more involved in criminal activities than women. According to Mackesys Crime (n.d), this can be termed as ‘gender gap’. Nonetheless, based on Walklate’s (2004) arguments, conversations about crime and gender should consider more than just a comparison of the statistics on crime because the term ‘gender’ largely denotes the interaction between men and women in the society. Similar remarks are made by Austin (1993) who argues that an evaluation of gender differentials in criminal behaviour should consider: whether men are naturally more criminal than women, whether the criminal justice system is more tough or lenient to women than men and the reasons why there is a difference between male offenders and female offenders. Hypothetically, this is why Walklate (2004) goes ahead to evaluate the existing statistics about the gender gap in criminal behaviour.

In evaluating gender gap in crime, Walklate (2004) gives an example of a study by Home Office (2002) which revealed that women offenders were only 19% of those found guilty or cautioned by the criminal justice system. Walklate (2004) acknowledges further that this rate had remained stable up to 2011, meaning that there is a significant difference between males and females in regards to their known criminal behaviour and how they interact with the criminal justice system.

Nevertheless, this gap has taken the same dimension since the 1960s and 1970s as indicated by Walklate (2004). For instance, Walklate (2004) gives examples of other studies which indicate that in documented crimes since 1955, the ratio of male to female offenders in England and Wales was at 7.1:1 and 5.2:1 in 1965 and 1975 respectively. However, other sources indicate that the prevalence of female involvement in crime compared to males is complex to decipher, and in some cases, research has shown that the percentage of females in crime is on a doubling trend (Steffensmeier & Allan, 2002).

However, other scholars make interesting revelations. For instance, in 2005, the UK’s male population were at 29.5 million while the females were 30.7 million (Mackesys Crime, n.d). Yet, according to Mackesys Crime (n.d), the female offenders both in England and Wales were less than male offenders. Mackesys Crime (n.d) also displays figures indicating that the number of women locked up in the UK prisons was more than their counterparts locked up in all European Economic Area (EEA) nations except Spain and Ukraine. These figures imply that the participation of women in crime vary internationally. All in all, only 19% of known offenders in the UK were women.

Walklate (2004) argues that the extent and nature of criminal behaviour become easier to understand when a crime is evaluated through the victim’s perspective and that this is more rampant in the case of sexual offenses against women. Similar remarks are made by Adler (1975) who observes that looking at sexual offense committed by men against women makes it easier to perceive men as more criminal than women.

Interesting revelations are made about gender crime differentials by other scholastic work albeit from the angle of female prostitution in the UK. Mackesys Crime (n.d) assert that the UK’s male to female ratio in prostitution is one to four and that in one survey, the number of women found to be involved in prostitution for poverty reasons were at 74 %. Moreover, according to Mackesys Crime (n.d), statistics from the UK government showed that in 2017, 933 cases of curb-crawling were convicted compared to 2,678 cases for prostitution, meaning that more females were convicted for prostitution than their customers who are generally men. A possible implication of these statistics is that there is a difference in the type of crimes that men commit compared to women, and that whereas males may be engaging in specific crimes at the same rates as females, the type of crime may cause an assumption that a particular gender engages more in a particular crime than the other gender.

Walklate (2004) also analyses gender crime differentials from the perspective of self-reported cases. In doing so, he argues that it is difficult to tell whether males are more criminal than females based on self-reported crime data because there are several other factors that determine whether a criminal, male, or female may self-report their crimes or not. To put this into perspective, arguments by Walklate (2004) indicate that men or women may find it difficult to report their offenses because these offenses might too serious and attract capital punishments. Similarly, it may be difficult to self-report a crime because the suspect may be coerced to accept crimes that they did not commit. Thus, according to Walklate (2004), statistics indicating that men are more criminal than women may only be based on the minor crime data and not major crimes.

To conclude, all manner of research studies have indicated that men are more involved in criminal behaviour than females. Although the accuracy of these conclusions may be questionable, male defendants appear to be more likely to be imprisoned than females. This may be based on different factors such as the general assumption that women are naturally less criminal than men. Nonetheless, there is a need to take a deeper analysis of the statistics indicating the crime differentials between men and women in order to make accurate judgments and about gender crime differentials.

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References

  • Adler F. (1975). Sisters in Crime: The Rise of the New Female Criminal. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Austin L. (1993) Recent Trends in Official Male and Female Crime Rates: The Convergence Controversy. Journal of Criminal Justice 21: 447–466.
  • Mackesys Crime (n.d) Women, Gender amd Crime-(Coverage: England and Wales), Retrieved from:
  • Steffensmeier H, & Allan B. (2002) Gender and Crime - Differences Between Male And Female Offending Patterns, retrieved from:
  • Walklate S. (2004) Gender, Crime and Criminal Justice (2nded.) Cullompton: Willan Publishing

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