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EXPLORING WOMEN’S PATHWAYS INTO CRIME AT CHIKURUBI FEMALE PRISON
- WASHINGTON BONGANI NGULUBE
The study of female crimes has been limited when compared to the study of male crimes. This research focuses on the why there has been an increase in women participating or committing criminal activities particularly armed robbery at Chikurubi Female Prison in Harare. This chapter will highlight the background to the topic of study and the reasons which prompted the researcher to purpose the research (statement of the problem). The chapter will also bring to light purpose of the study, research questions, and significance of the study. Assumptions, delimitations and limitations are eluded to in this chapter. Key terms which are significant to exploring women’s pathways into crime are also defined in this chapter.
Background to the study
There is a common perception that the criminal behaviour of women were not serious problems. Women are more likely to commit minor offenses and have historically constituted a very small proportion of the main population. But these facts mask a trend that is beginning to attract attention henceforth motivating the researcher to embark on the quest to get answers to these changes. The research seeks to give the reasons to why there has been an increase in women’s participation in criminal activities particularly armed robbery. The research will be conducted at Chikurubi Female Prison which is located in Harare, Zimbabwe. The student had the privilege to work at Parliament of Zimbabwe during the work related learning in 2013 and 2014. Henceforth the research study is a result of the student’s observations while working for the Parliament of Zimbabwe.
The Women and Men in Zimbabwe periodic report in ZIMSTAT (2012) states that Zimbabwe has a population of approximately 12 973 808. Whereas, men constitute approximately 6 738 877 (48%) while women constitute 6 234 931 (52%). Harare is further evidenced as the Province with the largest population of 16.2 percent of the total population in Zimbabwe (ZIMSTAT, 2012). More so, the Women and Men in Zimbabwe periodic report in ZIMSTAT (2012) further brings to light that 48 percent of the female population is in the age group 15- 49. One would further argue that this is the reproductive age group among females.
The drastic rise in women’s pathways into crime is fairly well known, less so is that the ranks of women crimes are increasing much faster than those of their male counterparts. However, there are no ready statistics but police and court cases show that the country now has a breed of female criminals, who are terrorizing the public and acting in cahoots with male accomplices. Women in Zimbabwe now have the dexterity to pinch from financial coffers, carry out highway robberies right up to raiding service stations while heavily armed to the teeth. About 3 499 people were kidnapped and robbed by pirate taxis and kombi drivers working in cahoots with female robbers countrywide last year (Butaumocho, 2014). Ibid further states that the situation is more pronounced in Harare where at least 1 200 cases of kidnapping and robberies by public transport drivers working in cahoots with female accomplices were recorded in the last quarter of 2013. One may argue that such cases of engaging in violent crimes like robbery have for long been considered a male domain because of the risks involved that include shoot outs and highway chases that may result in death. Women evidently are now participants of such criminal activities.
The pace at which women are being convicted of serious offenses is picking up faster than the pace at which men are convicted. These dynamics motivated the student to embark into an academic research exploring the reasons to these changes (increase) between the period 2011 and 2014. ZIMSTA (2011) notes that 432 females were imprisoned during the 3rd quarter of 2011. The total number of prison admissions in the 3rd quarter of 2011 increased by 21 percent when compared to the 2nd quarter of 2011 while the number of new female prisoners increased by 10 percent in Zimbabwe. In comparison with the 4th quarter of 2012, a total 9 111 prisoners were admitted into prisons, consisting of 8 509 males and 602 females. ZIMSTA (2012) 4th quarterly report further reveals that female prisoners increased by 31 percent in the period under view. Harare province recorded to be having the highest number female prisoners indicating 155 prisoners.
What animates the studies is not so much numbers of offenders but the particular circumstances of the women and girls “behind” the numbers. The involvement of women in robberies might be a fairly new phenomenon in Zimbabwe, the problem is being experienced in a number of countries across the globe. However, Harare as the capital city of Zimbabwe is evidently recording the highest female crime participation rate.
Statement of the problem
The student felt that there is a notable gap in literature and inadequate extensive research on the women’s pathways into crime in Zimbabwe. When a woman commits a crime, the usual explanation is that it is involuntary, defensive or a result of some mental illness or hormonal imbalance inherent in the female physiology. Engaging in violent crime for example, robbery has for long been considered a male domain because of the risks involved that include shoot outs and highway chases that may result in death. Zimbabwe seems to have recorded a disturbing increase in the involvement of woman in armed robberies, rape and other criminal activities in the past 3 years. There is no clear explanation for the increase of female robbers or participation of women in criminal activities. Could this be a result of women’s increased masculinity? Or the environment playing a significant influence on women’s participation into crime? Is it as a result of gender based violence? Such questions the research seeks to address in at Chikurubi Female Prison
Significance of the study
The study will shed light on what are the motivating factors which prompt the increase of women’s pathways into crime particularly in armed robbery. It is of paramount importance to assess the impact of the environment on the increase of women’s pathways into crime. The significance of the study to the:
This research will be an eye opener for the Government and the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and other government parastatals (Police, correctional services) to come up with effective polices and interventions on improving social order and deal with these crimes.
This research will help other women to avoid the pathways into crime and will help understand why other women participate in criminal activities.
The increase of women’s pathways into crime is a serious national and community problem which has to be addressed and thoroughly researched on. This research will help future researchers come up with ways to understanding the factors behind the increased women’s pathways into crime.
The research will benefit the researcher as he aspires to further his studies in forensic psychology. Therefore, in carrying out this research, the researcher will gain valuable insight and knowledge into the subjects as he also fulfils the requirements to obtain an Honours Degree in Psychology.
The research was based on the following questions:
- What are the psychological factors contributing to women’s pathways into crime?
- What are the contribution of socio-economic factors leading to women’s pathways into crime?
- How does culture influence women’s pathways into crime?
The research was based on the assumption that:
- Women are weaker than men.
Purpose of the study
The sole purpose of the research was to investigate the mitigating factors to increase of women participation into crime particularly in armed robbery. The research used the results to implement effective ways to help women in prisons to recover and it will also help to understand why women commit such criminal offences.
Delimitations of the study
The study was confined to focusing on pathways into crime and having women prisoners as the research subjects.
- Disclosure– The researcher encountered a challenge in gathering information regarding women’s involvement and participation in criminal activities at CFP as they considered the information to be highly sensitive. Obtaining information from the subjects may also be a challenge. Therefore, the researcher sought permission first from the Department of Prisons Services Headquarters.
- Data collection procedures– Data can be unreliable in the event participants choose not to participate. The researcher used popcorns and chips as incentives in order to motivate participates of participate.
- Time and financial constraints– This research was conducted concurrently with final year modules. Time to effectively cover all issues and aspects involved in carrying out a proper research was restricted. There were a lot of resources needed for printing, internet research, typing and travelling which also put strain on the available resources. Therefore, the researcher came up with a budget and time plan which guided the researcher in efficient time and resource allocation.
Definition of terms
These are adult female humans (Wehmier, 2005).
These are plans along or a way of achieving something (Wehmier, 2005).
This refers to those activities which break the law of the land and are subject to official punishment (Haralambos,0000).
This chapter provided the background to the area of study as well as highlighting the statement of the problem. The significance of the study, assumptions, purpose of the study, limitations and delimitations have also been addressed. This chapter also outlined the research questions. More so, the relevant terms to the research have been defined.
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