Africa: A new look at women and organised crime

Africa: A new look at women and organised crime

Date: July 22, 2012
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The control of women’s bodies and women’s work is very lucrative, big, business for organised crime syndicates. Violently affirming dominance over women is often considered central to maintaining gang identity.

The tale of a South African woman Nolubabalo “Babsie” Nobanda, who was caught trying to smuggle 1.5kg of cocaine into Thailand in her dreadlocks, however, presents an example of a growing number of women getting involved in organised crime as participants, rather than as victims. She was sentenced to 15 years in jail for her crime earlier in June.

The view of female gang members as maladjusted tomboys trying to “pass as one of the guys”, or as drawn into gang life as pliable auxiliaries to their boyfriends, is being undermined by the growing incidence of women expressing complex constructions of femininity through their involvement in organised crime. They are not just couriers of drugs and guns, as they have been traditionally, but are also involved in the planning and execution of major operations at a more senior level.

The vast majority of crimes, however, still continue to be committed by men and as a result, many criminological theories – ostensibly of general application – account only for the behavioral traits of men. In fact, most theories of crime either ignore gender entirely or merely focus on why females fail to resemble males in their behaviour.

Source: Institute of Security Studies – Anine Kriegler is an intern in the Transnational Threats and International Crime Division of the ISS. Edited by Charles Goredema, Programme Head Organised Crime and Money Laundering Programme of the IS


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