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This study investigated the causes and patterns of female criminality, using criminological analysis. The origin of Criminology was devoted to studying “criminal man”, which means that crime is primarily regarded as men’s activity, ignoring the fact that women can perpetrate crime as well, even though at varying intensities and/or gravities. Yet, increasing complexity and industrialization of the modern societies are accompanied with the corresponding rise in female criminality. This trend calls for a shift in research frontiers from studying “criminal man” to also include how and why crime is on the increase among female population in order to chart a viable policy on crime prevention and control in Nigeria. Therefore, this paper aimed to examine the variation of crime across gender lines and the rising crime rate among females in come up with a gender-based crime prevention policy. The study used secondary data and emphasis was placed on the current trend in female criminality in the Nigerian society. Liberation theory of female offender and situational crime prevention were adopted in the paper. The paper found out that crime rate among women is on the increase against family members and against the state. These offences include spousal murder, political corruption and terrorism. The paper suggested that policy on crime prevention and control among female should take into cognizance the role, position and experiences of females in the family institution, the legal and other social structures. Thus, female crime prevention and control shall include measures at the individual, family and societal levels.





1.1       Background of the study

1.2       Statement of the problem

1.3       Objective of the study

1.4       Research questions

1.5       Significance of the study

1.6       Scope of the study

1.7       Methodology

1.8       Literature review



2.1       Gender, Crime and Female Criminality

2.2       Concept of female crime

2.3       Theoretical Framework



3.1       Female Criminality: Nigerian Experience

3.2       Policy Implications-Developing Gender-Based Crime Prevention and Control on Female Offenders


Findings: Nature and Causes of female criminality

4.1       Introduction

4.2       Nature and Causes of female criminality

4.3       Patterns of female criminality around the world


Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1       Conclusion

5.2       Recommendation




1.1       Background of the study

Over the years, in every religious society, women have always been considered as physically and mentally subordinate and unproductive to men. The trend might have reduced somewhat in the 21st century due to the advent of media, women commissions, NGOs, human rights organizations, etc. but we find reports of widespread violence against the „creators of life‟, particularly in the backward and developing nations. This particular term paper would concentrate on The situation of female criminality; causes and consequences. Discrimination against the women is largely due to some inherent and common social and religious factors in Nigerian society.

The term female criminality refers those kinds of crime which is committed only by female. It was believed till a few decades ago that crime is predominately a male phenomenon and the world of crime is only a male phenomenon and the world of crime is only a man’s world. The criminal behaviour of women has been studied less than that of men. This is partly because women commit fewer crimes than men, especially violent offences, and also because female aggression is typically carried out in private and domestic areas.

In Nigeria, discrimination against the women is largely due to some inherent and common social and religious factors. Similar to their Indian and Pakistani counterparts (Muslims and non-Muslims alike), the Nigerian women have been subjected to unjust local social taboos and norms. People still follow the ancient belief that women should only be considered as child-bearers and housewives and as a result they are discriminated against by parents, husbands and sons throughout their lives. The little attention that was given to female offenders usually was limited to three contexts: (i). comparison that understood women’s lack of involvement in crime related to men; (ii). studies of prostitution; and (iii) analyses of the depravity of violent women, the rational being that since normal women are passive, the few women who do commit violent crime must be sick (Curran and Ranzetti: 2001). But, in contemporary age, female criminality is growing attention towards the readers because of the nature of news published in popular media. The number of crime committed by female is increased in recent days because of the marginal nature of women, discrimination in family life and workplace environment and complex lifestyles (Islam and Khatun: 2013) and impact of popular media (Siegel: 2007).

Beginning with the biological theory of Lombroso (1898), elaborated in the psychological theory of Freud (1905, 1931, 1933), and modernized in the contemporary theory that women’s liberation causes female crime, a theoretical perspective has developed which claim that female crime is product of the masculinization of female behavior. Female criminals are more „masculine‟ than non-criminals females, biologically, psychologically, and socially. In social psychological terms, female criminal behavior is a concomitant of role reversal (Weis, 1976).

In Nigeria, women are involved in different types of crime such as: murder, child and drug trafficking, prostitution, suicide, adultery, theft, robbery etc. But in some cases, in occurrences of crime, women played as the partners of men or in some cases, both of male and female played indirect roles in crime commission. Generally, the crimes in which women hold responsibility are: family suppressing quarrel, abortion, affray, illegal black marketing, and corruption. According to the Child Act, 2013, the crimes committed by an individual or a group who are below 18 years are defined as Juvenile Delinquents‟ crimes. Relevant for this article, we considered the female offenders who belong to the age groups of 18 years old or more than 18 years. In the mid 1970s several factors converged to convince the public that changes were occurring in the rate and nature of crime among women and the female offenders also began to receive more attention during this time.

In early age the concept of female criminality was a unique matter to society because the society was male dominated and the women had a little scope to contribute with the works of men. The main duty was to house works and rearing children. As they couldn‟t go outside the concept of crime was unknown to them and they were frightened to do any illegal work. But due to the change of time and development in the field of science and technology the negative and dominating attitude towards women began to disappear. Women represent the fastest growing criminal population, growing by almost a third over the course of the 1990s, and almost a third of all incarcerated women report having been on welfare in the period just prior to their arrest. And yet despite this apparent dramatic increase in the criminal behavior of poor women, the study of women’s criminality remains in its infancy. Drawing on life course theory, however, some feminist scholars are taking steps to address this hole in the literature, and the most striking finding to emerge from the field of feminist criminology is that the best predictor of female criminality is a history of sexual or physical abuse victimization.

In the last few years, the rate of female criminality is increasing in our country in an alarming rate and women are committing new types of crime and most of their crimes remain hidden because it is very difficult for the law enforcement agency to detect them as they are adopting new policy for committing crime. The chief type of female criminality in Nigeria is drug trafficking, goods trafficking, status offender, hijacking, cheating, theft, prostitutions etc.

1.2       Statement of the problem

Female crime may be considered a crucial problem because of its impact on the upbringing of children and, the overall fabric of society. Moreover, compared to men, women are more God fearing, moral and tolerant. They are also subject to greater social restriction. Women participation in crime is very low.

Very often women criminals are themselves responsible for becoming victims of crime or deviant behavior. More often than not, the freedom and the redressal are sought, may be unintentionally, through behavior which is ultimately as resulted as ‘crime’. Thus, since a large number of crimes committed by women are due to their adjustment problems of interpersonal relations in family and are not due to their criminal tendencies or disorganized personalities, there is a great need for a flexible sentencing policy for female criminals. Since almost all female offenders are first offenders, and since criminal behavior is not a significant part of their life organization, their imprisonment and banishment from society fail to bring about the required change in attitudes and values inimical towards society.

Now a day in our society the female crime is increased day by day. Our society is male dominated. Female are deprived, discriminated and dominated all the sectors in our society. However, the broken home family, dowry related violence, all kinds of domestic violence, torture, oppression, exploitations are mostly related to instigate the female to committed crime. In all situation women are in vulnerable position. So, the field was chosen to know why the women criminal increase day by day and what types of crime are committed by women? In our country various studies shows the causes, nature and extent of male crime. But many types of female crime are not focused or totally neglected. It was believed that crime is predominantly a male phenomenon and the world of crime is only a man’s world. So, the main purpose of this research is to identify the causes and nature of female criminality.

1.3       Objective of the study

The main objective of this study is to examine the nature and pattern of female criminality, using a criminological analysis. My major objective of the study is how social economic factors and other factors lead a female in our social environment to involve herself in criminality.

The following are the specific objectives of the study:

  1. To find out the social cause of female criminality.
  2. To know socio-economic and other factors of female criminality in our social environment.
  3. To find out the pattern of female criminality round the world.
  4. To examine the nature of female crime in our social environment.

1.4       Research questions

  1. What is the social cause of female criminality?
  2. What are the socio-economic and other factors of female criminality in our social environment?
  3. What is the pattern of female criminality round the world?
  4. What is the nature of female crime in our social environment.?

1.5       Significance of the study

Man by nature is a fighting animal hence to think of a crimeless society is a myth. There is no society without the problem of crime and criminals. The concept of crime is essential concerned with the social order. It is well known that man’s interests are best protected as a member of the community. It was believed till a few decades ago that crime is predominantly a male phenomenon and the world of crime is only a man’s world. The subject of female criminality was totally neglected. No attention was paid to research on women’s crime which resulted in paucity of theoretical material on crime amongst women.

Female commits various types of crime. In this research i want to know what the natures of female crime are. In our society male are the head of the family and males are always dominating the female. In our family, female are not get priority for decision making. Also, females are deprived of many facilities. Female are not merely exploited they are victim of prejudice, discrimination, abuse, humaliatation and deeply held social beliefs that they and somehow ‘inferior’. (N.V, Dr Paranjape, Criminology and Penology.)

1.6       Scope of the study

This examined the causes and patterns of female criminality, using criminological analysis. This study is designed to investigate the causes, nature of female crime and what are the social problem occur in our society and what are the family and State role to reduce the female crime.

1.7       Methodology

The study is mainly qualitative in nature and is based on secondary materials (available literature). Mainly relevant theories of female criminality have been reviewed from available and accessible books, articles etc. Besides, data and information have been collected from available secondary sources such as journal articles, research reports, books, newspaper and periodicals. Furthermore, the contents has been analyzed descriptively and a comparative analysis of the theories has been done to describe the nature and pattern of female criminality. 

1.8       Literature review

There is several literature of female criminality where female delinquency is described in different perspective and the cause of female criminality is discussed.

Cesare Lombroso, (1903)

The most investigated “difference” between the sexes was biological. Cesare Lombroso(1903) identified the female physiognomythought most likely to determine criminal propensity. This was the new science of “criminal anthropology” matching the general fascination with Darwinismand physical anthropology, where scientists sought pathologicaland atavisticcauses for criminal behavior. While he credited criminal women as being stronger than men, the consequence was that prisonwould hardly affect them at all. Lombroso concluded true female criminals were rare and showed few signs of degenerationbecause they had “evolved less than men due to the inactive nature of their lives”. Lombroso argued it was the females‟ natural passivity that withheld them from breaking the law, as they lacked the intelligence and initiative to become criminal.

Sigmund Freud(1905)

Sigmund Freudtheorized that all women experience penis envyand seek to compensate an inferiority complexby being exhibitionisticand narcissistic, focusing on irrational and trivial matters instead of being interested in building a just civilization. William I. Thomas(1907) published Sex and Society in which he argued that men and women possessed essentially different personality traits. Men were more criminal because of their biologically determined active natures. Women were more passive and less criminally capable. In The Unadjusted Girl (1923) he argued that as women have a greater capacity to love than men they suffer more when they do not receive social approval and affection. The “unadjusted girls” are those who use their sexuality in a socially unacceptable way to get what they want from life. The female criminal forgoes the conventional rewards of domesticity by refusing to accept prevailing modes of sexuality and seeks excitement, wealth, and luxury: a pursuit that may conflict with the interests of the social group as it also exercises the freedom to pursue similar goals. 

Adler (1975)

Adler (1975) proposed that the emancipation of women during the 1970s increased economic opportunities for women and allowed women to be as crime-prone as men. While “women have demanded equal opportunity in the fields of legitimate Endeavour’s, a similar number of determined women have forced their way into the world of major crime such as whitecollar crime,murder, and robbery” (Adler, 1975: 3). She suggested that as women are climbing up the corporate business ladder, they are making use of their ‘vocational liberation’ to pursue careers in white-collar crime. But feminism has made female crime more visible through increased reporting, policing and the sentencing of female offenders and, even then, the statistical base is small in comparison to men. Carlen (1985) argues that Adler’s ‘new female criminal’ is cast as the ‘biological female’ who is essentially masculine. 

The ‘new female’ criminal turns out to be the ‘old maladjusted masculinist female’ of traditional criminology, rejecting her proper feminine role such as institutionalizing rather than incarcerating women who commit ‘male’ offences such as robbery, i.e. Adler’s ‘sisters in crime’ appears to work within the frameworks of traditional criminology rather than a feminist one. For an examination of gender in crimes of violence, (Alder,1975).

A debate in the recent criminology literature has focused on the handling of female offenders as they are processed through the criminal justice system. There are two competing perspectives. The chivalry or paternalismhypothesis which echoes the perception of female inmates as victims, argues that women are treated more leniently than men at various stages of the male-dominated justice process as a function of the male desire to protect the weaker (Crew: 1991; Erez, 1992). The “evil women” hypothesis which parallels the female inmate as subhuman perspective holds that women often receive harsher treatment than men in the criminal justice system and suggests that this different treatment results from the notion that criminal women have violated not only legal boundaries but also gender role expectations (Chesney-Lind, 1984; Erez, 1992). Simon (1975) predicted that the criminal justice system would start treating men and women offenders equally. There is mixed empirical evidence for this emancipation or liberation thesis, and some would say that absolutely no empirical evidence exists for it and the notion is discredited (Chesney-Lind & Pasko 2004). 

Farrington and Morris (1983)

Farrington and Morris (1983) found some empirical evidence that women did receive less severe punishments, but female offenders are far more likely to be first-time offenders, and to have committed a less serious form of the relevant offence; they stole smaller or fewer items, used less violence, and so on. Prior history of offending, and seriousness of offence, is fundamental factors in determining severity of sentence, for any offender. Once these variables are entered into the equation, it is possible to conclude that female offenders are not being treated any differently from males in equivalent circumstances. However, the evidence does suggest that married women with a caring role are more likely to be treated leniently. This may be because they are expected to remain in the home to continue their dependent “maternal” function. Unmarried women or those in unconventional relationships tended to receive more harsh treatment, confirming a sentencing model based a cultural need to reinforce gender roles within a framework of heterosexual marriageor family life. Kruttschnitt (1982) who investigated the link between economic independence, informal social control,  and heavier sentences for women. In a study of convictions in a Californian population in the 1970s Kruttschnitt found that sentence may differ with the extent to which a woman is economically dependent upon someone else for her day-to-day existence: the more dependent she is, the less severe her disposition. Thus, the degree to which a female offender can be shown to be under informal social control may produce a lighter formal sentence.

Chapman (1980)

Chapman (1980) studied the connection between labor force participation, and revealed an increase in female criminal activity during times of economic hardship. The smallest increases in arrests coincided with periods of the greatest increase in economic activity with the most common offence being that of shop lifting. These findings would seem to support a theory of a relationship between employment and crime rather than that offered by the ‘women’s liberation thesis’. When times are good, the offending woman appears to stabilise rather than escalate. 

An absence rather than availability of employment opportunities (liberation thesis) would seem a more plausible explanation for increases in female crime. Naffine (1987: 99) believes the criminal woman’s motive appears more rational and straight forward than manifesting her gender-role concerns or seeking to compete with the criminal male.

Studies of patriarchy tend to look at everything from female membership in male-dominated professions to the “rape culture” with promotes female victimization. The study of patriarchy has also allowed feminists to uncover hidden forms of violence against women. For example, feminist critiques of pedagogy (how teachers teach) have become quite common, as education, particularly criminal justice education, becomes the domain for discovering examples of male-dominated thinking and examples of the marginalization thesis (women being reminded that they are only women, or men being reminded that they are bad – simply because they are not women).

 Robert k. Merton, Albert K. Cohen, and Richard Clowardand Lloyd Ohlin(1938) 

Strain Theoriesare criticized by feminists as betraying a double standard. When male offenders commit a crime under certain conditions of opportunity blockage, their commission of crime is somehow seen as a “normal” or functional response. When women commit crime, Strain Theory views it as some sort of “weakness”. Naffine (1987) probably represents the best example of this critique, but there are other critiques, such as the characterization of females as “helpmates” or facilitators of crime in the Strain Theories of Albert K. Cohen, and Richard Clowardand Lloyd Ohlin.

The research methodology in Social Learning Theories, such as Edwin Sutherland’sDifferential Association Theory, is criticized for relying on male examples, using case studies of males only, and being a male-dominated perspective that glamorizes the male criminal, or at least the sociable, gregarious, active, and athletic characteristics of the male criminal.

Similarly, Social Control Theories, such as Hirsch’s Social Bond Theory, focuses almost exclusively on social classat the expense of gender and race.

Feminists therefore concluded that the failure of criminology to research the issue of female criminality fairly either reflected a male-dominated discourse in which men primarily research male issues, or betrayed the rigidity of male stereotypes which allowed men to justify their prejudices with pseudoscience.

Carl Marx (1818-1883), Bonger Voltaire Rousseau, Beccaria and Bentham

The proposition that economic life is fundamental, and, therefore, has the determining influence upon the social and cultural values is as old as the human civilization itself. This connotes that economic factors influence the nature and form of all social patterns and controls all other aspects of human life. Thus criminologists have tried to explained crime in terms of economic determinism. 

In the words of Carl Marx (1818-1883) economic conditions determine the general character of social political and spiritual processes of life and with the change of foundations, the inter superstructure is also rapidly transformed. Those who support this view concentrate on the economic aspect of crime and analyses the impact of economic condition on criminality. There assertion that economic forces have been interacting right from the inception of the human society has a historical background. 

It is well known that in early societies and in early times when the economic resources were limited struggle for existence and survival for the fittest was the law of nature. There after as the society advance increase in production yielded surplus as a result of which the system of barter and exchange originated. Gradually money gained importance in human life so much so that it has now become the sole determining factor of a person’s social status in modern society. Aristotle the Greek philosopher commented that crimes are commented not merely fort the seek of meeting the necessities of life but also for acquiring superfluous things. He believed that crimes are mostly committed because of the acquisitive tendency of man and his greed for acquiring surplus wealth. Thinkers like Voltaire Rousseau, Beccaria and Bentham has agreed that economic structure is one of the causes of criminality. 

Simpson, (2000)

Simpson said that the increasing numbers of women involved in the criminal justice system and the paucity of programs and services that are geared toward their needs, has prompted criminal justice professionals to examine their sanctioning and supervision processes in terms of gender. This justification ignores the fact that, women who do enter the justice system, while fewer in number and less violent than their male counterparts, often become extensive users of the system. In focusing on the overwhelming number of males in the criminal and juvenile justice systems, programs, policies and services often fail to develop a diversity of options for dealing with the gender and culturally-specific problems of female offenders enmeshed in the system.

Marxist Smith ,(1980)

Marxist Smith in her seminal article “Women, crime and deviance”, “In capitalist social structure, females commit crime as a result of their socialization process.” (Ahuja 1996: 114). The real conditions of the aforementioned causes induce the female gradually toward a marginalization position and, as a result, females commit more crimes for their economic need. On the other hand, feminist theorists emphasized on the early childhood experience of women’s physical and sexual torture and relate this to female offending.

Rita J. Simon (1975)

Rita J. Simon said that her book Women and Crime. She emphasized the descriptions of different dimensions of female criminality, that is – type, nature and also the corrective role of jail and court in this regard. She showed that there is no difference between male and female in terms of morality, the biological characteristics not being relevant for committing crime. According to the empirical observations of this theory, she argued that historically, males are more active in crime because of their greater social opportunities, competences, and networking than females.Simon logically argued that “when more women get access in labor market as skilled labor and possess highly specialized positions in the job sector they commit more employment related property crime than men. Some women take the advantage of these opportunities, just as some men did before. On the other hand, she logically comments that,

“If women become more skilled and educated, they will be economically independent in future.” Consequently, the rate of violent crime of female will be reduced since women generally commit violent acts against their husbands or inmate partners. When women become more educated and independent they will be more able to resolve these often volatile situations in other less violent ways. This is where the masculinity theory differs from the opportunity theory. This point is often missed by researchers who link the two theories together as one, and labeling them as the liberation or gender equality theory. Overall, the opportunity theory predicts that increasing opportunities of women reduce the rates of violent female offending, but increase the rates of property female offending, especially larceny/theft, embezzlement, fraud, and forgery.

Chesney-Lind (1997)

Chesney-Lind said that To find out the causes of the majority of female criminality it has been seen that their position is marginalized by less salary, unrespectful occupation and less secured job. Generally, they commit less property related crime. Women are motivated to commit crime as a rational response to poverty and economic insecurity. This theory argues that the major causes of female crime are unemployment, poorly paid employment, inadequate welfare payments, and the increasing number of female headed households with large number of children.

Harrington and Nee (2005)

He argued that As women become more liberal in their thinking and work, this helps them to integrate the male characteristics of being aggressive, pushy, and hardheadedness in their personalities. Women learn to utilize crime as a means of acquiring success and wealth, and thus they become more violent. One idea has been reflected here according to which different socialization processes trigger much more differences between male and female- which is a more significant cause for crime than the biological traits. if the masculine characteristics are the only responsible factor for crime, then why don‟t all men commit crime? For these reasons, beyond biological explanation, there has developed a type of masculinity theory based on socio-structural explanation, which focuses on the relationships between crime and the masculine characteristics of women. 

Pollock (1998)

He said that female criminality typically point to some elements of opportunity, need, or both, in women’s entry into crime. She argues that because social structures put more barriers in front of women’s criminal opportunities, women offender’s lives may be different from those of law-abiding women. This would explain, for example, the fact that women offenders have histories of sexual and/or physical abuse which appear to be “instigators of delinquency, addiction and criminality”. Additionally, while personal relationships (e.g., marriage, family) may generally serve to prevent law breaking by females, the relationships of women offenders with men are often abusive, exploitive, and/or the pathway to substance abuse and related criminal activity.

Bonta,Pang, & Wallace-Capretta, (1995)

They argued that Historically, theories of female criminality ranged from biological to psychological and from economic to social. Much of the literature attempts to explain female criminality by focusing on women’s (and girls‟) deviant behavior — that is behavior that does not conform to traditional female stereotypes. The female “deviant” is deemed to be more deviant than her male counterpart. She experiences greater stigmatization when she transgresses gender standards and in some cases, faces harsher punishment. For example, the criminalization of pregnant, chemically dependent women raises issues related to their suitability for motherhood. The criminal justice system response to women’s law breaking has often been that of moral reform.

Barbara E. Bloom & Stephanie S. Covington(1998)

The neglect of women in criminal justice research has been justified on the grounds that they account for only a small fraction of arrests and commit fewer crimes than males. This justification ignores the fact that, women who do enter the justice system, while fewer in number and less violent than their male counterparts, often become extensive users of the system. In focusing on the overwhelming number of males in the criminal and juvenile justice systems, programs, policies and services often fail to develop a diversity of options for dealing with the gender and culturally-specific problems of female offenders enmeshed in the system. Additionally, while research indicates that community-based programs may be successful in dealing with the problems of female delinquents, few programs target the specific needs of girls and young women.

Weis, (1976)

He described that women’s liberation causes female crime, a theoretical perspective has developed which claim that female crime is product of the masculinization of female behavior. Female criminals are more „masculine‟ than non-criminals females, biologically, psychologically, and socially. In social psychological terms, female criminal behavior is a concomitant of role reversal.



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