Editorial: Foreign Women in Prison

By Agozino, Biko | African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS, July 2008 | Go to article overview

Editorial: Foreign Women in Prison


Agozino, Biko, African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS


ABSTRACT:

The imprisonment of women worldwide has always been a controversial issue. This is partly because women do not end up in prison as frequently as men and so discussions of prison populations most often focus on the experiences of male prisoners. Therefore, any attempt to focus attention on the experiences of female prisoners raises questions in the minds of most scholars as to whether the conditions of women in prison are harsh enough compared to male prisons and whether we should not be focusing on the more severe conditions in male prisons? However, the rate of increase of female prisoners far outstrips the rate of growth of male prisoners partly because of the relatively small number upon which the increases are calculated and partly because of increasing attempts by criminal justice officials to grant women equality with a vengeance. If we move beyond this numbers game and look at the incarceration of foreign women in prisons around the world, we could be in a position to consider the nature of prisons in general and the imprisonment of women in particular and question their relative essentialisms.

INTRODUCTION:

Since the story of Eve, there has been a tendency to blame women for more than their share of the troubles on earth. This is known as the Eve syndrome. Many feminist writers have re-examined the narratives of the original sin to represent Eve as the mother of human rights. What she ate in the Garden of Eden was the fruit of knowledge and it is argued that knowledge is part of what makes us human and so it should not be censored, not even by God the Creator.

Without knowledge, we would be like the other animals rather than being fully human, in God's image, a likeness that provoked the jealousy of Lucifer who wanted all the creatures, including man, to be beneath the Divine rather than like the Divine, a pride that led to the fall of Satan to the lowly mission of trying to prove that it was a mistake to have made man with so much power that he would likely abuse when tempted, resulting in the fall of Lucifer from grace and the eventual loss of paradise by man. Yet, the image that is left in the minds of most believers is that Eve was responsible for bringing sin into the world and some try to corrupt her name to suggest that she was evil and that all women by extension are evil. 'It is the woman you made for me', cried Adam, 'she made me eat of the forbidden fruit because Satan made her eat it first and now we know that we are naked, that is why we are ashamed and in hiding', or something like that. Adam was being a typical man, he denied responsibility and blamed it all on the evil woman.

Was Eve framed in such a way because she was a foreign woman in Eden in the double sense that she was not there from the beginning (she was not the first woman, that one created at the same time that man was made, Male and Female made He They, the Bible said; and later, the story of a sedated Adam undergoing divine surgery to remove a rib and artificially make Eve for him, without telling us what happened to the first woman, a dark woman who was said to have refused to submit to the authority of Adam, According to Pfohl, 1994) and in the additional sense that she was was not there earlier when Adam was made with the other woman and was later made from the rib of man? If you go through the bible, you will notice that most of the bad women were foreign women from the Queen of Sheba who came from Africa to tempt the wise king Solomon to Delilah the Philistine temptress that emasculated Sampson the Strong.

Some may see Esther as a good foreign woman but I doubt if the wife of the King that she displaced or the King himself who also lost out as a result of her charms would agree with the elasticity of goodness in Esther or Ruth in foreign lands. Their roles, as narrated by male authors, present them in less reputable lights than, say Joseph the slave who resisted the temptations of the wife of his master and was the target of the false accusation and hell-knew-no-fury of a woman scorned.

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