Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Dr Ann-Claire Larsen

Second Advisor

Dr Margaret Giles

Abstract

Many people today believe the concept of gender inequality is outmoded, irrelevant and unnecessary in Western societies that are deemed egalitarian. As a consequence, feminism as a movement with gender equality at its core has often been proclaimed ‘dead’,a relic of the past. Feminist perspectives, nevertheless, have produced differing points of view about the sources of gender inequality affecting crime rates and criminal behaviour.

For the last 50 years or so, women and girls have been the subject of criminological research that has largely evolved from sociological perspectives and specifically from feminism. Although gender intersects with other social realities and disadvantages, it is a crucial factor in relation to offending behaviour. A substantial body of feminist literature confirmed that marginality and poverty are factors leading to female criminality.

Using a sequential explanatory mixed methods design, this research explores the consequences of gender inequalities affecting older indigent Australian women convicted of acquisitive crimes. This thesis argues that the term ‘feminism’, and feminist discourse and communications, ought to be abandoned in favour of advancing the human rights framework in the 21st century. Stigma associated with the feminist label has been detrimental. The most significant finding in this research is that financial need rather than greed was a precursor to older women’s involvement in acquisitive crimes. Having primary custody of children after divorce and relying on welfare support were factors contributing to their impoverished status. The feminisation of poverty, the segregation of women into low-paid feminine occupations and an accumulation of disadvantages over the life course often contribute to women’s impoverishment in their later years. Potentially, law-abiding older women are put at risk of transgressing the law for the first time later in their lives to alleviate their poverty.

From a human rights perspective, violations of the women’s rights were factors contributing to their offending behaviour. Gender inequality, a condition that disadvantages women, however, is alive and well in Australia as confirmed here and is an unrelenting feature of many male-dominated social structures throughout the world today. Since a great deal of negativity surrounds the feminist label, it would be more pragmatic to abandon the feminist label and adopt a human rights approach.

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