In the last two decades, research has shown that there has been a dramatic change in the specific ways by which the female members of our society are being treated within the criminal justice system. This is due to the vast legislative reforms and improved enforcement methods, and stiffer laws that in a way affect the women differently. The government in responding to this has put in place a gender specific approach towards studying and understanding the criminal justice policy in order to be able to come up with essential reforms that can appropriately deal with these underlying issues.
Current records show that the rate of women’s incarceration is on a high increase. This therefore has brought about increased interest from different corners and one thing that most people agree on is the fact that there is a great need for a critical assessment and evaluation social impacts of the countries high reliance on the correctional facilities to handle this very critical issue. It has been noted that the drugs war has been the greatest influential factor towards the national growth of the prison population. This has in hand impacted greatly on the women in our country for the past two decades.
Statistics now show that the female members of our society are now more likely to be indicted with drug related offences than men and are therefore victims of the punitive law enforcement and sentencing practices that are on the high. This higher rate of women indictment as compared to men is also evident of the fact that women face high levels of economic hardships before finding themselves in jail.
It is therefore very important to have a detailed study and understanding of the nature of women’s involvement in crime so as to be able to provide relevant and essential response to their individual and structural causes of their criminal acts instead of just focusing attention on the punitive response (Edlund, 2002). In this paper therefore I am going to tackle an area that has been of much interest concerning women in the criminal justice system, i.e. prostitution. I am going to discuss this in details, showing how women are criminalized in the justice system due to this serious issue.
Many people have described prostitution as the oldest profession in the world today even though a universal definition has been elusive. A simple definition for that matter therefore would be that, prostitution is the act of engaging in sexual behavior for financial gains. It must be noted that it is only recently that this issue has become visible. Despite the fact that numerous women all around the country sell their bodies for financial gains and on the other side too numerous men offer money for these services, post-war research and publication has been limited. For a larger part of this post-war period, these activities have been majorly confined to specific red light areas thus invisible to the general public. The period immediately after the war till recently, the political battle against prostitution has been more towards reducing its visibility and confining it to specific areas (Edlund, 2002).
In the last three decades, the issue of prostitution has largely attracted public interests all across the world and therefore and therefore moved up the social and political agenda in many nations. One of the major factors that have greatly influenced the growing public interest is the widespread of HIV/AIDS. Another factor that is of much concern is the growing rate of foreigners’ involvement in the industry as well as children.
On top of all this factors, there has also been a growing feminist interest in the issue that has been evident in the many heated debates among various feminist of varying persuasions. It must be noted that promiscuity alone does not make a woman a prostitute even though there is a belief that most prostitutes are promiscuous (Edlund, 2002). A woman sleeping around with as many men as she can, talk of two or even ten thousand does not automatically qualify her to being referred to as a prostitute. Therefore a line has to be drawn between prostitution and promiscuity. Prostitution must involve some kind of material benefits in exchange for sex.
Prostitution has changed a lot in terms of form across different times and social cultures that define our different societies. The first level of prostitution came in the form of street prostitution. This was then followed by brothels, then bars and finally clubs. In this industry there are those normally referred to as the call girls and there are also those firms known as the escort agencies. These are elements of the industry that fall under the middle level and the high end levels with well kept girls. The higher-level girls in the industry are those that are much better looking and beautiful as compared to the others. They are also younger in terms of age and much healthier and demand much more per customer. There incomes and working conditions and environment are also much better. Their customers are few, screened, and very selective.
Many people always assume that in this business women sell as their male counterparts purchase. The truth is that both women and men sell in this business even though it is a fact that the female sellers outnumber the male sellers. This therefore should not rule out the fact that there are homosexual and heterosexual male sellers as statistics duly proves that this is a reality.
It is also important to note that prostitution has largely proved to be a gender inequality issue. Most women who involve themselves in this kind of business will always admit that their reason for this is the unequal opportunities that the society has to offer. It has always been a belief that hard collar jobs can only be managed by the men, thus denying women a lot of job opportunities bearing in mind that it provides millions of job opportunities every year e.g. in the infrastructure and construction industry.
Pregnant women have a number of times always been denied job opportunities in many organizations that demand high amounts of time commitments as well as those that expects their workers to work in shifts i.e. both at night and daytime. This are therefore some of the challenges that women face everyday that has pushed some of them to engaging in some of this promiscuous activities to earn living for themselves and for some, earn a living even for their families (Sommer, 2000).
Some years back, a piece of legislation was passed in England that required healthy women to be registered and given a certificate to distinguish them from those who were infected with sexually transmitted diseases. On the other side, those who were infected forcefully confined in medical facilities to acquire treatment. This act led the women activists and various politicians to vigorously voice their concerns against this legislation claiming that there was no evidence show that there was this kind of urgent intervention. They also claimed that this was an act that interfered with the civil liberties and were opposed to the cruel manner by which this law was being implemented (Sanders, O’Neill & Pitcher, 2009). They also raised their voices concerning the fact that prostitution was a problem that was becoming detrimental to women safety and therefore was supposed to be criminalized and not tolerated. They were also not happy with the fact that this law only targeted women and not women whom they thought were only victims of the vice (Morash, 2006). This is just an example that shows how women have been marginalized, segregated and discriminated upon as a result of this issue in the justice system.
Many researcher and writers have suggested that prostitution in their work that prostitution was an oppression of women. They have supported this argument based both on the economic reasoning and also from a simple gender and power point of view. Some have argued that prostitution was a clear show of how female sexuality was viewed as an object of male desires by their environment. These feminist perspectives and arguments therefore have raised lively debates whereby prostitution has in the recent past been connected to sexual slavery. It has also connected it to the general oppression of women on both the local and international level (O’Neill, 2001).
To many researchers, prostitution is a form of sexual exploitation. This is because, when an individual has been reduced to a tool or rather an object of sexual pleasures, he or she has been humanely violated whether there was consent or not. Prostitution is always an act this is very demeaning to the woman who is engaged in the behavior and also the women fraternity in general. Those nations that have passed legislations that legalize prostitution or regulate it are actually working on a strategy to continue the male domination of the female members of our society (O’Neill, 2001).
Theoretical arguments that associate oppression with prostitution are in a way supported by the challenges that are associated with certain kinds of sex jobs. It is a fact that prostitution especially the street level has some kind of connection with violence, substance abuse, homelessness, low health standards, and basically denial of social rights.
There those are issues such as social class and power that work together with issues such as gender and race to influence the relationship between the sex customer and supplier. Many people have raised their voices that seem to be against the social and political inequalities that define the market relationships in this business (O’Neill, 2001). The question here is whether sexual capacities and abilities can be measured to determine the level of business transaction applicable.
Women have been criminalized by the justice system due to this issue in a number of ways. It is also important at this point to note that the government has at different times and places tried to both regulate and criminalize prostitution. In regulating the issue, the government has centered its attention towards handling it as a public health issue. By so doing, the government has tried to ensure that those who engage in this behavior do not spread sexually transmitted diseases (Morash, 2006).
In the USA, prostitution has been criminalized by both the federal and local laws. When you take a look at the federal level, there was a piece of legislation popularly known as the Mann Act that was passed in the early 20th century. This was a law that tried to forbid the trans-border transportation of women for immoral purposes. By mid 1910s, almost all the states in America had passed laws that forbid profiting from incomes acquired by people who engaged in prostitution. Even though the earlier laws were centered on those who gained financially through prostitution, later laws were made that also seek to punish even those who paid for sexual activities.
It must be mentioned that, criminalization of prostitution was never intended to eliminate the vice instead it was meant to give the police some level of control over its visibility though. The role of the police was to away with certain classes of women who were viewed as being offensive to the public. The outcome of this therefore has proved to be selective enforcement. This is because it has only managed to move the vice out of the public view and into certain marginalized neighborhoods. This has in hand led to the marginalization of such neighborhoods and those persons who reside in them, thus making such criminal activities seem like normal and part of the daily life in these areas (Feinman, 1994).
Records show that female arrests have been on the increase over time. Research shows that there has been a systematic denial of protection and justice to women in the justice system. Through out the country, it has been noted that there is a solid body of organized law that has empowered the criminal justice personnel with great powers to interfere with cases involving violence against women. This is inclusive also of those where the victim is too fearful to testify. There are a number of obstacles to criminal justice concerning women that is very important for us to understand.
Women who engage in prostitution have a number of times been victims of violence and rape. A lot of times this women are usually criminalized for prostitution without the consideration of the offences against them simple because of the nature of their jobs. A majority of people are not aware of the fact that the entire police unit and the DAs office can watch and act as they feel i.e. if they feel like doing nothing they can just pass. This is because these government criminal personnel have entirely no obligation to do anything. On the other hand also, the victims have entirely no legal right to hold these personnel accountable at any level of the criminal justice system (Feinman, 1994).
The explanation for this kind of thing is the fact that this criminal justice personnel have the right to decide which type of crime to treat with the seriousness it deserves and which not to as they see right. Despite the fact that law makers have been trying to pass bills and implement policies that try to give law enforcer the authority to deal with the issues that affect women on the red street areas, they have continued to act the way they want see best. As a result, this women continue being denied equal justice and protection by our by our justice systems. These prostitutes continue to lie at the mercy of those criminal and justice officials who respond to their cases (Feinman, 1994).
One question that is very important for us to ask ourselves is whether the law prohibits prostitution or not. To answer this question therefore, it is important to take a practical look at the situation in the country both today and in the past, and the answer is definitely ‘yes’ or ‘no’. In the past, the imperial law described prostitution in two distinct ways. First, there was the criminal prostitution which is common among the ordinary people. This type of prostitution is prosecuted just similar to ordinary adultery. The second one is the legally tolerated prostitution. This is common among those persons of the debased status that involved some level of supervision (Ditmore, 2006).
It has been argued by many researchers that when trying to find a workable solution to handling the whole issue of prostitution, the strategy of eradication is not the best road to take towards solving the vast problems associated with social inequalities. The ‘victimhood’ view of thought has also come across challenges arising from other organs of feminist perspectives and women’s movements. A favorable solution to this problem of is the introduction of social education in schools that provide children with information concerning immoral sexual behaviors, the challenges (such as HIV/AIDS, violence), and the legal penalties that come with this act. Children should therefore grow up knowing the challenges that they are likely to face in their future life and the moral alternatives that they have at their disposal.