Female Criminals in Pakistan: Personal and Socio-Demographic Profiles

By Baloch, Gul Muhammad | Journal of Research in Gender Studies, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Female Criminals in Pakistan: Personal and Socio-Demographic Profiles


Baloch, Gul Muhammad, Journal of Research in Gender Studies


1. Introduction & Literature Review

Pakistan and its Prison Systems

In 1947 British India was partitioned along religious lines to create two independent nations: India and Pakistan. Pakistan has four provinces: Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and Pakhtunkhuwa. Pakistan occupies a strategic crossroads in South Asia, bordering Afghanistan, and Iran to west, China to north and India to east. Modem Pakistan has a population of approximately 180 million of which over 95% are Muslims (John Esposito, 1986). Pakistan has 82 prisons. There are 22 prisons in Sindh province, out which 4 are women prisons - in Karachi, Hyderabad, Larkana and Sukkur districts.

Status of Women in Pakistan

Pakistani society is characterized by considerable economic disparities between different sections of society, as well as by divisions of caste, tribe, clan and class. It is dominated by a feudal and tribal value system, with strong patriarchal trends. All these factors have affected the status and rights of women at every level and in all sectors, and have negatively impacted their real participation in the process of decision-making (www.capwip.org/ readingroom/pakistan). A 1985 report by the Pakistan Commission on the Status of Women, whose findings were suppressed by General Zia's administration, concluded that '...women in Pakistan are treated as possessions rather than self-reliant, self-regulating humans. They are bought, sold, beaten, mutilated and even killed with impunity and social approval...the average rural woman of Pakistan is bom in near slavery, leads a life of drudgery and dies invariably in oblivion.' (Status of Women, 1986).

Women Prisoners in Pakistan

A 1980 study of criminal justice in Pakistan documented only 70 female convicts in the entire country (Ch. Auolakh, 1986). By 1987, the number had increased to 125 female convicts in the province of Punjab alone (Asma Jahangir 1990), and an estimated 91 in the province of Sindh (Sabiha Sumar 1988). According to some of the police records for 1983, in all provinces of Pakistan, a minimum of 1,682 women faced trial for offences solely under the Hudood Ordinances. That number increased to 1,843 in 1984 and continued to rise in subsequent years. Sociologists Khawar Mumtaz and Farida Shaheed estimated that there were a total of 4,500 women prisoners in the entire country (Khawar Mumtaz, 1989).

Eighty percent of all the female prisoners in Pakistan were illiterate and nearly 90% lived on a monthly family income of less than US$40.The vast majority were poor and illiterate. A 1987 study in women prison Multan, Punjab province concluded that the majority was from rural areas, 69% lacked any formal education, 26% could only read Quran, and only a small proportion had some formal education. Seventy one percent (71%) of female prisoners came from Pakistan's lowest income bracket (Lubna Shah, 1987).

According to a survey conducted in 1988, over 90% of the 90 women prisoners interviewed in two prisons of Punjab province were unaware of the law under which they had been imprisoned. Over 60% had received no legal assistance whatsoever (Asma Jahangir, 1990).The study also found that women were most frequently detained for spousal murder or offences under the Hudood Ordinances. Other offences included theft, alcohol abuse, and possession of drugs or illegal arms. In late 1991, of over 30 convicted women prisoners in Multan prison, half were convicted for murder and sentenced to death. Nine of them had been charged with killing their husbands (Human Rights Watch, 1992). The population of Women Prisoners, as of January 2010, is shown below in Table 1.4

2. Gender and Crime: Key Concepts

Gender

Gender refers to those behaviors which define individuals as male or female in particular social and cultural contexts (John Scott, 2009). It refers to the differences between men and women's roles and responsibilities that are socially constructed, changeable over time, and that have wide variations within and among cultures (The Southeast Asian Consortium on Gender, Sexuality and Health, 2007). …

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