A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF ADOPTING A SOCIAL HARM PERSPECTIVE TO ACCOUNT FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS

Nicola Kitchen

Abstract


 

Due to criminology’s preoccupation with crime causation, punishment and crime control, criminology as a discipline fails to appropriately recognise ‘harms’ experienced by women and girls. A social harm perspective allows for the criminological gaze to extend beyond legal definitions of crime, and could therefore account for a more comprehensive understanding of the harms experienced. Using Female Genital Mutilation and Stalking as selected examples, this article demonstrates how a social harm perspective is useful in accounting for, and understanding, violence against women and girls. Moreover, this article also identifies that even when a harm is officially recognised as a crime, the lack of formal Criminal Justice sanctions suggests, that harms experienced by women and girls are not sufficiently addressed. However, although a social harm perspective offers for a broad understanding to which criminology has not achieved, it is not without its limitations. Harms against women and girls are not only endemic, they are arguably not characterised by homogeneity, thus making it very difficult not only to define, but also to measure. Notwithstanding, a social harm discourse can nevertheless expose harms that require politicisation to be heard, and allows the narratives of women and girls to be given a platform that criminology does not currently provide.


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