Gender Issues in the Criminal Justice Sytem
by Blessard1995 on March 12, 2017 - 12:13am
Feminists have struggled for many years to equalize gender in many different aspects. Gender issues are socially constructed and it is about the reality of women’s lives and the contexts in which women live. Meaning, the criminal justice system has to work harder to equalize their policy with gender differences, since current laws are based on male characteristics and male crime and fail to take into account the reality of women’s characteristics, responsibilities, and roles in crime. The male model of justice may be fair treatment, however equal treatment may not be perceived as fair treatment because the social reality is, that women may have different economic needs, may have been victimized, and may in other ways be in different situations than males. There is debate about whether equality under the law is necessarily good for women, due to equality in this sense is the only way to guarantee that women will be treated as equal partners in economic and social realms. However, since women are not the same as men, the use of a male standard to measure equality means that women are disproportionately disadvantaged in comparison to their male counterparts.
The involvement of women in the criminal justice system has largely been as crime victims. When women report sexual assault to authorities many issues come up and there is a lack of understanding of why women do not report sexual assault. Although there is a lack of understanding, it happens more often than not. For example, the Jian Gomeshi trial where three women have tried to seek justice in the criminal justice system and instead were mostly humiliated due to the fear of testifying against a man that sexually assaulted them. For many reasons, women are reluctant to report rape and sexual assault cases because of public humiliation, the possibility of being re-victimized by the perpetrator, the victim not always being treated with gender sensitivity and having few perpetrators convicted, to name a few. When race and class overlap with the social sector of gender, there is great disadvantage to women. For example, by being poor and coloured, it makes for a very different experience from that of middle class white women. One of the gender dynamics frequently found is that the criminal justice system is declared ‘genderless’ or ‘gender neutral’, which is male oriented. The same occurs in terms of race, where the terms ‘race neutral’ generally means white. The way in which women experience the criminal justice system, and the decisions that are made are a reflection of broad cultural understandings of gender and the general economic, social and political status of women in that society.
Women will always be perceived different from men due to the nature of duality and that is why there will always be a deficiency, because women are not men. Therefore, to change this view, we need to create appropriate services that truly take into account and respond to gender and cultural factors and to reexamine our current criminal justice policies. As well, since women are unlikely to report the incident to police in the first instance, personnel in other community based organizations need to be trained to recognize signs of gender based violence and to be informed of strategies for responding appropriately to the women to be able to assist and support her. The following policies should be in effect to make things better with gender differences, create gender-responsive services, establish new rules of evidence including admissibility of forensic evidence and expert witnesses due to cases of rape and sexual violence remaining difficult to prove given the strict requirements, establish policing and criminal justice system processes and procedures that are gender sensitive and take into account social and cultural difficulties in bringing such cases to the attention of authorities, continuing the advancement of training of police, investigators, prosecutors and judges and establishing more victim support services outside of the criminal justice system, to name a few.
The realities of race and gender disparity touch the lives of all women and appear through the criminal justice process and this issue needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Decision-makers are well informed about gender differences and they also do understand that gender plays a critical role throughout the criminal justice system and this issue needs to be addressed to improve the handling of cases of women and children.
Stephanie Covington & Barbara Bloom. “Gendered Justice: Women in the Criminal Justice Sytem.” Gendered Justice: Addressing Female Offenders (2003) Accessed March 9, 2017. https://www.stephaniecovington.com
Hegger, John. “How Gender Affects Offenders and Officers in the Criminal Justice System.” Community Corrections Insights (2015) Accessed March 9, 2017. https://www.correctionsone.com