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Psychosocial Aspect of Feminist Criminology

Masculine and Feminine roles are not biologically fixed but socially constructed. (Judith Butler) Criminology is the study of crime and aberrant behaviour and it is an interdisciplinary field in both the behavioural and social science. Feminist criminology is a group of related theories that having a common principle and among the major theories like radical, liberal, socialist, postmodern, eco-feminism, Marxist and multiracial feminism are widely known.

Radical Feminism draw attention over how women came to occupy submissive role in first place and tells influence of male power over women and how societies can be transformed. Liberal Feminism draw attention over women's issue and aware other about women's right and transform their role in society and increase women's opportunity. Socialist Feminism offers ideas about fair role for women as homemakers, child bearers, home nurse, sex provider and bread and butter provider so that they can get more rightful place in society and more respect from society.

Postmodern feminism focuses on the breakdown of traditional ideas in society and tells how language influences the difference in treatment of genders. Ecofeminism argues about link between women and nature and connects exploitation and domination of women with that of ecology. Marxist Feminism points out the roll of capitalism in the subjugation of women (i.e. male control and dominance over property and women body).

Multiracial Feminism discusses the racism, sexism and colour of women. Every layman agree about gender gap in crime is universal. Men to commit criminal acts are more likely than women.
  • Is there gender gap is stable or variable?
  • Is male crime distinct from or similar to those female crime?
  • Is there any reason for such differences?
Feminist criminology often criticized about how Female offenders have been always ignored, neglected or stereotyped by traditional criminology and there is no any existence of different theory about female offenders. Whoever studies feminist criminology is often noticed about gender ratio gap (why men criminals are more likely than female criminals). Can be traditional theory who usually focuses on male criminals modified to female criminals too. Because a simple fact that in today's scenario gender matters to remove stereotyping in society.

History of Feminist in USA:

Feminism is belief about gender equality between men and women. First wave feminism evolved around mid-1800s about right of vote of women in 1848. About 300 men and women came together in Seneca Falls, New York to fight for women right where �Declaration of Sentiments was passed�. Second wave of feminism was started around 1960s called as �women liberation of movement� which focused on political, financial and social rights of women.

Third wave of Feminism started in 1980s which fulfilled void of second wave. When Marry K. Letourneau (34 years old) was married with Steve Letourneau (cargo specialist for Alaska Airlines) and mother of 4 children. Marry was school teacher in Burien, Washington. Due to charges of second-degree child rape, she was arrested on march 4 and she was pregnant by her 13-year-old student V. Fualaau. She pled guilty of 2 child rape and she was sentenced to 7 years 5 month in prison.

Court had initially suspended her punishment under condition that she will not have any contact with Fualaau but she again sent in prison when court knew about her further contact with him and subsequently pregnant for his second child. This story focused on the point that if 35 years male impregnated 13 years old girl then it should be considered as flagitious crime and offender got more strict punishment in prison.

But here story is in between 35 years female and 13 years boy. As men can be male sex offender then can Letourneau be called as female sex offender. she again repeated her crime with the same victim but stereotyping causes less punishment for Letourneau. Instead of female sex offender, if any male did the same crime then he will be punished with more sentencing. There are various factors leads to female criminality. Some are psychological, biological, social, Physical, personal and monetary factors.

Psychological Factors:

There are various mental disorder, personality disorder, psychopathy, emotional disturbance, different types of phobia, undeveloped thought process, Moral Inferiority, Mood Disorder, anxiety, Impulsivity. Mental disorder includes depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, psychosis, schizophrenia, illusion, delusion, hallucination. Worldwide millions of women are suffering from different psychological disorder. In 2017, 46.6 million adults are suffering from mental illness in USA where percentage of women treated for mental illness were 50% higher than percentage of men (22.3% women vs 15.1% men according to National Institute of Mental Health).

Women are suffered by General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) are twice than men in USA. Whoever studying Feminist Criminology must study relation between psychological factor and female. Worldwide millions of women suffered from mental illness and lack of cognition. Under the influence of these factors, women knowingly or unknowingly commit crime. Some offender female having history of mental abuse too. The Centre for forensic in Anna Arbor, Michigan studied 55 women who murdered their children where 29 women were psychotic and 26 women were not. Psychotic subgroup was often older, married, taking high education or some are single parent also where some personality disorder, schizophrenia or depressive disorder had been found in psychotic group.

In case of State of Rajasthan vs Vidya Devi, the accused was suffering from insanity on the date of incident (1996). Before case was filed, accused sent to Medical hospital for treatment and she has remained admitted in hospital for treatment till 2001. Case shows due to insanity she entitled to claim benefit under section 84 of IPC. Social factor- Lack of education, alcohol or drug abuse, poverty, family structure, parenting, family condition, social stigma unemployment, peer pressure, conflict. Routine activity theory states the presence of guardians or family member as a main factor to reduce crime.

Social disorganization theory tells when social control breaks in community, crime starts to hike. Social strain states perceived lack of possibility for social success can tempt female to criminality. Hunger and poor condition results into many women becoming criminals. Many young girls or women who don't know, they are doing many criminal acts by becoming part of it but in fact they aren't. Most of criminals started their criminal activity after consumption of drugs. Religious fanatics results into murder of innocent people and due to superstition female became offender to satisfy their desire. Female can be offender and having many social reasons behind that.

Some female who aren't given justice become antagonistic and often engage in crime. Some female criminals have been victim in past, some women had family, society abuse. The most notorious case in India is Phoolan Devi popularly known as �Bandit Queen�. she became a bandit. She was born in small village in Uttar Pradesh. She married in very young age to an old man belonging from upper caste, her husband would mistreat and rape her regularly. Whenever she would keep running from home, she always got severe punishment from him. Being as unsuccessful wife, she had thrown out of village.

In 1970s, she was sent to jail for three days for stealing from someone's house, during which she was beaten, manhandled and raped. After kidnapped by dacoits, she became part of gang and met her love of life because he protected Phoolan from being again rape by gang leader. She married with him (Vikram Mallah). Gang attacked Phoolan's ex-husband village where she stabbed her ex-husband and dragged him out in front of villagers. She charged with 48 crimes including murder, kidnapping, arson, plunder. She got punishment by court, sent to prison for 11 years.

After releasing from prison, withdrew all charges by political member against her, later she joined one party, later she stood for election to parliament as candidate of Samajwadi Party and twice elected as member of parliament from Mirzapur. The social factor behind Phoolan Devi as criminal is family abuse, society abuse, injustice at justice home, traditional culture about marriage at very young age.

Female Criminality in India:

Total Crime committed in India between 2001-2011 by female was increased from 144608 to 193555 that is percentage increased from 5.4% to 6.2%. For total cognizable crimes in 2016, 193,241 women were arrested where number of men up to 3.54 million (NCRB). About 2.1 million violent female offenders annually where most commits simple assault against other females (BJS).

Types of crimes by Females Percentage of total crimes by Female Drug 24% Property 28% Violent 37% Public Order 9% Other/not specified 13%
Source: Carson, 2015 Most of the occasion, psychological and social factors for criminal behaviour are same for male and female although punishment is different accoarding to traditional criminology where male can get deterrent punishment for crime and female get less or no punishment for same.

Feminist Criminologist helps to reduce gender space from society and show fair criminology to world where every person is equal with no gender issue. Having same punishment for every person who does same crime is the present criminology. If any insane human being commits crime then he can get advantage of section 84 of IPC. Parole, probation can be given to female criminal according to nature of crime and after doing risk assessment.

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  2. Renzetti C. M., (2013). �Feminist Criminology�, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
  3. All Answers Ltd. (November 2018). Feminist Perspectives Criminology. Retrieved from
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  5. World Health Organization Retrieved from
  6. Khoele KB, De Wet PH, Pretorius HW, Sommerville J. Case series of females charged with murder or attempted murder of minors and referred to Weskoppies Hospital in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act over a period of 21 years. S Afr J Psychiat. 2016;22(1): a887.
  7. Petter Gottschalk (2020) Gender and Crime: Convenience for Pink-Collar Offenders, Deviant Behaviour, DOI: 10.1080/01639625.2020.1794270
  8. Rampton M., (2008). �Four Waves of Feminism�, Retrieved from
  9. Raine. A. �The Biological Basis of Crime�, J, Q. Wilson and J.S. Petrsilla (Eds) Crime: Public Policies for Crime Control, Oakland: ICS Press.
  10. Lander M., (2016). �What Causes Crime?� Retrieved from
  11. Melitta Schmideberg, �Psychological Factors Underlying Criminal Behaviour�, 37 J. Crim. L.& Criminology (1946-1947), (pp. - 458-468)
  12. P. M. K. Mili & Neethu Susan Cherian, �Female Criminality in India: Prevalence, Causes and Preventive Measures�, IJCJS, vol. 10, (2015), (p.p.- 65-76)
  13. Mriganka S. �Remembering the Bandit Queen: 10 things to know about Phoolan Devi�, India Today. 2015 August 10.
Written By: Gouri Rajendra Uplenchwar - Government Institute of Forensic Science Aurangabad
E-Mail � [email protected]

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