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Vulnerability across a life course: an empirical study: women and criminality in Botswana prisons

Tirelo Modie-Moroka


The number of women in prison in Botswana has grown over the past ten years. This is due, in large part, to rising numbers of women offenders admitted to prison for property and drug-related offences. The purpose of the study presented here was to assess the relationship between their life events and the subsequent offending of incarcerated women. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with 80 women inmates at six prisons in Botswana in 1997. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, respondents were asked about their backgrounds, criminal histories and relationships with significant others, together with the reasons for their current offending. Results show that women in prison are predominately poor, young and uneducated, who report high levels of victimization, substance abuse, familial disruption and high-risk behaviour and suffer from a host of physical and mental disorders. High rates of child and adult abuse, neglect and abandonment were also reported. These histories were strong predictors of poor physical and mental health. The findings of this study force us to examine the interplay of the cultural, ideological and structural factors affecting women's lives from a gender, class and relational analysis. This paper ends with a discussion on the findings of the study, under themes that emerged with specific reference to lifetime socialization for gender roles and the structural perspective of deprivation, stress, victimization and survivorship.

(Journal of Social Development in Africa: 2003 18 (1): 145-

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1726-3700
print ISSN: 1012-1080