Irony of Patriarchy: Women Offend Women

Suvarna Cherukuri, Kansas State University

The paper is a part of my dissertation project on women prisoners in India. "Women in Prison" is one of the most under-researched areas in sociology. Scholars have attributed the relative invisibility of women in prison (compared to their male counterparts) to a number of factors: women constitute a small proportion (typically around 5 percent) of the total prison and jail population, generally women are incarcerated for less dangerous and serious crimes than men, and incarcerated women are less likely than incarcerated men to "riot, destroy property and make reform demands" (Belknap 1996:92). The field site for this project is the Chanchalguda women's state prison. The research design is a case study. This research is based on the data I collected from May 17th 2000 to August 15th 2000. The nature of crime, its causes, and its prevalence must be fully understood. My research question on the nature of crime will examine the determinants of violence and also the relevant economic, social and cultural factors. The data I collected shows an overwhelming presence of women convicted for dowry-related deaths. It is this aspect that I shall focus in this paper. Interestingly, dowry-related crimes are crimes against women. Thus, in this case, both the offenders and victims are women. This raises the larger issue of the rapid rise of dowry deaths and bride burning as an indication of the growing exertion of patriarchal power and cruelty on women in India.

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Updated 05/20/2006