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Violence against women. provide a critical analysis of the how gender is significant in understanding your topic. How has the understanding of gender in crime, impacted on the criminal justice system outcomes and attempts to prevent such gendered crime? Y Essay Example

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Violence against Women

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Violence against Women


Domestic violence against women continues to be a very pertinent problem the world over notwithstanding the fact that various policy and legal measures continue to be churned out all over the world in different countries. The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical analysis of how gender is important in understanding the domestic violence.

Key words: gender, crime, criminal justice system, violence

The importance of gender in understanding the topic of violence against women cannot be gainsaid. As will be illustrated herein later, the physiological and biological differences that the male and female gender have do have a bearing in the propensity of the male gender being guilty of physical abuses against women. The hegemonic masculinity has all along contributed to women suffering the biggest brunt of violent physical abuses. For instance in the US the rate of violence against women by men is 22.1% as compared to the reverse rate which is only 7.4% (National Institute of Justice p. 1). Out of the fact that the rate of violence against the women by the males is usually higher, domestic violence has thus been viewed as a husband’s means of obtaining dominance in marriages that are largely patriarchal, hence tools for the oppression of women and the children in the society (Evans 2003, p. 16).

This eventuality has contributed to the fact of enactment by various states of legislations that are meant to protect the women against physical abuses and also to criminalize violence against women. The US for instance enacted the Violence Against Women Act; which Act was to be invalidated by the Supreme Court of the USA in 2000 (Garner p. 1601). The trend has continued so even among African countries with Kenya also enacting legislations that protect women against violence. Such legislations include the Sexual Offences Act of 2006 and the Employment Act of 2007.

Before launching into the gist of this discussion, it is imperative that this paper explains, through definition, a number of the key words which are to be used and encountered within it. The main terms which are earmarked for the definition include violence, gender, gender violence and crime. These particular terms form the cornerstone upon which the entire discussion would be premised.

The first of the aforementioned terms to be considered is the term crime which has been variously defined as the kind of conduct which the law makes punishable. Thus a crime connotes the breach by a person of a legal duty which is then treated as the subject matter of proceedings in a criminal process (Garner 2004, p. 399). Variously, the term crime has also been used and understood as the collectivity of all the unlawful activities in general (Bullon 2003, p. 371).

The term gender has been given various definitions. For instance, the term has been defined to mean the fact of being either male or female (Bullon 2003, p. 669). Besides, the term has also often been used interchangeably with the word sex which on its part refers to the sum of the peculiarities of the structure and function which differentiate a male from a female organism (Garner 2004, p. 1406). It may also be defined on the one hand as either whether a person, plant or an animal is a male or female or on the other hand as all men, considered as a group, or all women considered as a group (Bullon 2003, p. 1504).

The other term to be considered is violence, which would be used and understood as a kind of behaviour which is aimed at hurting other people physically (Bullon 2003, p. 1840). Further, other authors have defined the term to mean the use of force, especially of the physical type, which more often than not is accompanied by fury and or outrage (Garner 2004, p. 1601). The overriding hallmark of violence, in most cases, is that the physical force used is usually illegal and is primarily directed towards the victim with the intention to cause harm to them (ibid).

Given this definition therefore, violence should thus be understood as comprising any act or incident that involves the threat, the attempt or the occurrence of either the physical and or sexual assault (Personal Safety Survey 2006, p. 5). Following therefrom, physical assault, in this context, thus refers to a person’s use of physical force; which physical force is primarily intended to either harm or even frighten (ibid). Taken together therefore, gender violence refers to the use of unlawful physical force against the women gender. The unlawful physical force has thus been caused by men against the women victims in order to inflict physical harm to the women.

A number of times, though not always, gender violence occurs within the framework of domestic arena, hence have thus been referred to as domestic violence. Domestic violence has on its part been defined as the violence as between people of the same household, especially people with spousal relationship (Garner 2004, p. 1601). Although domestic violence is usually used in the spousal context, it however may cover all related acts of assaults which one member of a household directs against another member (ibid).

Domestic violence is sometimes even larger than the act of the use of physical force. This is because, other than the use of physical force to inflict physical injury, it also encompasses the creation by one member of a household of reasonable fear against another that there is the likelihood of injury or harm being inflicted against them (ibid). Thus, it becomes apparent that domestic violence, also variously referred to as family violence or domestic abuse, stretches well beyond the actual use of physical force to accommodate anticipatory acts of physical violence by members of the household. More often than not, such violence has had women as the victims.

The idea of feminist criminology was born in the 1970s so as to be able to explain the role of women, whether as victims of players at the different segments within the criminal justice system (Burgess-Proctor 2006, p. 26). While it may be thought of as being only a unitary theory of criminology, nothing could be further from the truth since it consists of several other sub-theories. Each of the sub-theories seeks to explain an aspect or a particular feature of the women within the criminal justice system (ibid).

The main feminist criminology strands include liberal feminism, radical feminism, Marxist feminism, socialist feminism and post-modern feminism. This paper would analyze the liberal feminist strand. Once analyzed, the analysis would then be used to compliment with the hegemonic masculinity.

Liberal feminism argues that the primary source of women’s oppression derives from the gender role socialization. According to this view, male related social roles such as aggressiveness are usually considered as being of higher social status as compared to women’s roles such as nurturing (Burgess –Proctor 2006, p. 27). Due to the fact that the society holds in high esteem male attributes such as aggressiveness, it therefore follows that this founds and perpetuates violence against women.

This is because violence by the males against the other segment of the society, the women would perpetuate and reinforce the myth of a higher self esteem. This comes out of the fact that the violence would serve to injure the woman’s self esteem given her disregarded and weak social standing. On the other hand, for the man, the violence turns out to be an opportunity to enhance his social standing; his masculinity and physical strength are used to perpetuate violence which is a socially accepted norm.

Usually, gender has both the corresponding physical and physiological consequences. This is more so when the aspect of gender is considered from the point of view of the male masculinity which greatly connote hegemony (Donaldson 1993, p. 3). The male gender, given his fundamental physiological differences with the female gender, possesses hegemonic masculinity as compared to the female gender (ibid).

Hegemony, within the context of gender, refers to the manner in which the male gender wins and holds onto power and in the process causing the formation or even the destruction of social groups (Donaldson 1993, p. 4). Hegemonic masculinity involves the kind of control that the women gender gets subjected to control by the men owing to the men’s masculine features.

The question therefore that one may ask is on how exactly the hegemonic masculinity and the consequent male control of the female gender is becomes important in understanding and determining the issue of violence against women. On the face of it, the hegemonic masculinity contributes in the physical domination of the women. Liberal feminism points out that the physical domination of women, having been accepted through socialization, make them vulnerable to violence from the more aggressive men. This is because their physiological differences as well as the biological make-up make them quite unable to effectively compete with the males in matters that require masculine strength (Walker 2003, p. 5).

However, aside from the direct ways in which the hegemonic masculinity contributes to the perpetuation of violence against the women, there are other more subtle ways in which the same facilitate violent activities by men against the women. It has been pointed out by criminologists and sociologists alike that the very way and manner in which the ruling class, (read male gender), puts in place and also maintains its domination very greatly contributes to gender violence. This contribution, it is observed, even far more outstrips the levels of violence caused by the direct physiological differences relating to strength (Walker 2003, p. 6).

Broadly speaking, the different authorities have identified a number of ways in which hegemonic masculinity indirectly contributes to violence against the women. The different ways have been outlined as including the fact that the male gender, owing to its dominance, has the ability to formulate and impose the way a situation is defined, determine the terms in which different events are to be understood as well as various societal issues discussed (Donaldson 1993, p. 3).

Further to the above ways, it has also been established that hegemony indirectly facilitates violent activities against the women by enabling the dominant gender, the males, to formulate the societal ideals. This particularly is a plus for the males because once they formulate the ideals, it then follows that they are capable of not only being able to define but also determine the society’s moral standards to which everyone has to comply. This would be as a result of liberal feminism perspective of socialization (ibid). The ability of the male gender to define and determine the moral standards of the society thus puts them in a firm driving seat to be able to make women comply with the male whims, lest the women find themselves being in breach of the society’s morals.

Very importantly therefore, the women’s compliance with the set morals would thus not have anything to do with willful acceptance, but compulsion. The very existence of compulsion negates willingness on their part. Consequently, this would constitute violence against the women because their compliance with the moral standards of the society, as set by men, is largely procured through coercion. The coercion is even enhanced by the use of the state, through the relevant justice systems, to administer the punishment for the women’s non-compliance with the moral standards as set by the dominant male gender (ibid).

Further, liberal feminism also explains gender violence through the male persuasion of the larger population. This is particularly so in light of the fact that out of its dominant nature, the male gender utilizes its dominance to infiltrate the media, the organization and set-up of the social institutions through ways that appear to be normal and ordinary at their face-value. Just like in the case illustrated above, the state’s involvement in meting out punishment against every non-conforming woman, becomes an accomplice the entrenchment of violence against women; a vice largely perpetrated by the dominant male gender (Donaldson 1993, p.3).

Violence against women, as explained through the hegemonic masculinity is thus to be understood through the lens of the liberal feminists’ socialization point of view. This is because hegemonic masculinity encourages male dominance hence male oppression and the likely violence against the women. The society has however accepted the violence in light of the fact that the violence denotes the highly held self esteem (Burgess-Proctor 2006, p. 29). Thus the hegemonic masculinity easily enhances violence and oppression against the women out of the fact that the males shape the social relations and interactions. Besides, the male power is abused through the males committing crimes against the women; which crimes do include domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, and pornography (Donaldson 1993, p. 6).

The disparities between the patterns of crime committed by males and females that ensue are as a result of the type of feminist sub-theory that is used to explain the role of the woman within the criminal justice system. For instance, liberal feminists who consider women’s oppression (hence violence) as arising from the gender role socialization, argue that women’s level and patterns of criminality are lower than those for men because the kind of socialization availed to the women is very limited, since the same provides only very few opportunities for them to engage in deviant activities.

The role of hegemonic masculinity in facilitating violence against women has been reinforced by what have been described as the six salient features. According to authorities, the first of these features is that domestic violence occurs out of the fact that all males have more power than all the females (Evans 2003, p. 17). Closely tied to this feature is the other feature which reiterates that the perpetrator of domestic violence is powerful while the woman victim is all powerless (Evans 2003 p. 19). The power, looked at from the point of view of masculine power, reinforces the already explored position that women suffer from violence perpetrated by men because of being weak physically.

The next feature is that the kind of violence that women do is entirely different from that done by the men (ibid). In her view, Evans points out that whereas women may also commit domestic violence, the damage that their form of violence cause upon the men is much less as compared to the reverse. Indeed, she illustrates this assertion even more pointedly through her next feature in which she illustrates that wife abuse is very different from other forms of family violence (Evans 2003, p. 20).

In the next feature, Evans points out that domestic violence is a crime which need to be responded to through conventional legal system. The appropriate conventional response that the author alludes to could only be criminal sanctions against the perpetrators. The last feature of domestic violence was the feminist intervention through the refuges that provided for abused women who walked out on their husbands from their marital homes (Evans 2003, p. 28).

Gender and sexuality have played very indispensable roles within the criminal justice system the world over (Hirschi n.d., p. 107). This is because of its contributions in the realm of provision of separate correctional facilities for both the males and females. For instance, the insistence by the different brands of feminist criminology to the effect that the circumstances that drive women into criminal acts are very different, unique and are far removed from the factors that influence male gender engagement into crime. As a result of this, the feminists agitated for the setting up of pure set correctional facilities into which each of the gender have their own facilities as opposed to being combined.

Lastly, one issue that must be pointed out is the fact that the criminal justice victimizes women (Zimmerman 2007, p. 126). According to Meloy and Miller, the criminal justice system victimizes women since the system is very pro-male gender. In their book, Victimization of Women, the authors point out that the criminal justice system exonerates male abusers while punishing the victims (Meloy and Miller

This paper sought to discuss the persistent, challenging and thorny issue of violence against the women. This, it has done by first considering and defining the attendant issues such as gender, crime and gender violence among others. It has then proceeded to discuss the role of hegemonic masculinity in the perpetuation of the problem of gender violence. This has then been followed by considering the issue of disparities in patterns of criminal engagements and treatment.

List of References

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Burgess-Proctor, A 2006, ‘Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Crime: Future Directions for Feminist Criminology’, Feminist Criminology, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 27-47.

Donaldson, M 1993, What Is Hegemonic Masculinity? Viewed 19th May, 2001 <http://ro.uow.edu.au/artspapers/141>

Evans, S 2003, Domestic Violence: a critical review and discussion of the literature, Wentworth Area Health Service. Available at http://www.menshealthaustralia.net/files/Ways_of_Knowing_About_Domestic_Violence.pdf

Garner, AB 2004, Black’s Law Dictionary, Thomson West Publishers, St. Paul Minnesota.

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Michelle L. Meloy and Susan L. Miller, 2010, The Victimization of WomenLaw, Policies, and Politics. Oxford University Press, U. S. A.

National Institute of Justice, Selected Research Results on Violence Against Women: Nature and Scope of Violence Against Women. Available at http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/violence-against-women/selected-results.htm

Travis, H (n. d.), On the Compatibility of Rational Choice and Social Control Theories of Crime. Viewed 19th May, 2001 <http://www.popcenter.org/library/reading/PDFs?ReasoningCriminal/07_hirschi.pdf>

Walker, G 2003, Crime, Gender and Social Order in Early Modern England, University of Cambridge Press, Cambridge.

West, C & Zimmerman, HD June 1987, ‘Doing Gender’, Gender and Society, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 125-151.