Gender Issues in the Law and Order Arena


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There are some cases in the law and order arena where gender has become a thorny issue. One such case is different treatment of males and females prisoners. Various reports have indicated that females receive different treatment in prison than their male counterparts. Some stakeholders have tried to justify this difference saying that male and female prisoner have different need while other have opposed saying both male and females prisoners should be treated equally in the eyes of the law. However, whatever the circumstance male and female prisoner should be accorded prison terms that do not violet their human right.

Gender conflict in the US prison treatment can be traced back in the 1970 where a case was filed on behalf of women prisoners accusing the prison system of violating their right to constitutional protection (Martha et al, 2008). This case was elicited by the view that the then prison terms focused on conditions for men. Through the 1970 and 1980 the prison system largely benefited men providing them with education, vocational training and apprenticeships that would give them skills and grant them economic redemption.

These opportunities were not provided to women prisoners. There was a belief that criminal behavior in women was a result of failed feminity and therefore convicted women were instead offered home economics courses and parenting lessons in order to restore their feminity. Rehabilitation programs developed differently for male and female prisoners with women being offered inferior program is an indication that gender bias still exist in the and law and order arena.

Another issue that brings about disparity on how women and men are treated in prison is sexual abuse. Women prisoners do not get adequate protection from the law and end up being sexually molested and abused by prison guards. According to a fact sheet released by Amnesty International USA (2008), 70% of prison guards in women correctional facilities are male. Records show that these male prison officials subject the female prisoners to rape and other sexual molestation.

Groping and mishandling are usually the order of the day when men prison official conduct body searches on women prisoners (Human Rights Watch, 2006). Female prisoners who attempt to report sexual molestation cases are met with brutality from the prison officials. Due to access to prisoners information by the prison guard, these guards threaten prisoners children and visitation rights as a way of silencing the women. The prison system has not established ways of protecting women convicts from such acts.

Another gender issue in the US prison system concerns provision healthcare. Medical needs of women in US prisons have largely been neglected (Amnesty International, 2008). Women are usually denied access to crucial medical resources especially during pregnancy. According to reports less than half of US female prisons offer adequate gynecology treatment. There are few staffs providing gender-based healthcare to women prisoners resulting in long delays when a prisoner needs treatment.

Prison official also take a lot of time to respond to emergency gender-based health issues such as miscarriages sometimes leading to deaths. In summary, there are still serious gender issues in the law and order arena. One of them is the discrepancy that exists on how women and male prisoners are treated today. Often women prisoner find their human right being violated due to existence of unfavorable prison condition for women. This situation needs to be rectified sooner rather than later.



Amnesty International USA (2000), Women in Prison: A Fact Sheet, retrieved on February 2, 2011, from


Human Rights Watch (2006), Sexual Abuse of Women in US State Prisons, retrieved on February 2, 2011, from


Martha et al  (2008), Bringing Human Rights Home, Vol. 1, Praegar Publishers, Westport


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