The Impact of Contemporary Feminism on Criminal Justice

Shoshana Pollack (2007), Cecilia Benoit, Mikael Jansson, Michaela Smith and Jackson Flagg (2017), Jaskran Dhillon (2015), and Emily van der Meulen and Elya Maria Durisin (2008) consider feminism as one major activism that can lead to liberation of women and achievement of equality in the society.  Cecilia Benoit, Mikael Jansson, Michaela Smith and Jackson Flagg (2017) argue that there is great contention in regulating sex work in all nations by government authorities, the public, as well as the sex workers. It is easy to ignore sex workers’ ideologies when policies are being made in most cases yet this has a big impact on this group. Therefore, there is need to stop discrimination against women is common despite existence of feminism movements that strive to eliminate it and free women from the challenges of living in a society dominated by control by men. The problems facing women can be physical or emotional due to abuse that leaves them wounded. Emily van der Meulen and Elya Maria Durisin (2008) identify two sectors of sex industry in Canada and the violation of the laws governing sex workers basic labor rights. The impact is physical and economic challenges especially in the massage and escort activities. Shoshana Pollack (2007) examines the risk discourses and their role in gendered meanings in correctional practices for women. Women that have undergone through abuse are seen as violent as well as discursive. Jaskran Dhillon (2015) writes that in Canadian cites and urban areas there is hunting of indigenous girls exposing them to harassment and criminalization by the local law enforcers. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also participate in use of deadly force when dealing with the girls. The four articles agree that discrimination of women especially sex workers is rampant despite feminism effort to fight for the rights of women. Women have suffered sexual discrimination for a long time including at the workplace due to offensive sex remarks or being undermined in job performance. Although much has changed due to feminist campaigns aimed a liberating women, several issues such as discrimination of sex workers and other minorities exist. Contemporary feminism faces various challenges due to various assumptions related to gender and sexuality thus laws that protect them need to be followed to ensure that discrimination is eliminated.

Shoshana Pollack (2007) argues that feminists despite their great effort have not managed to alter thus criminal justice practices as well as policies that can help in improving the welfare of women in incarceration centers. The foundations of the penal code as well as practices remain relevant. The author begins by discussing the stories related to feminist victimization and the way the narratives are linked to women’s risks. Feminist criminologists have identified some gendered aspects, which have effect on women engagement in criminal activities. Coping with the experiences of discrimination including childhood abuse as well as feminine violence influences some women to participate in criminal activities. Thus, women move from victimization to imprisonment such as wandering in the street, substance addiction, poverty, as well as homelessness. The author also mentions criminogenic factors that lead women to turn to errant behavior as well as risk thinking and self-regulation (Shoshana Pollack, 2007, p. 170). Working in oppressive systems implies reproduction of marginalization as well as oppressive practices such as the situation in Canada. Correctional policy-makers may try reforming women prisons but this may not eliminate the problem of oppression. There is need to theorize and negotiate the power of the correctional systems to facilitate definition and interpretation of experiences of women facing imprisonment. Focusing more on the state procedures instead of individual characteristics of women when dealing with gender and punishment is recommended. The author argues that several studies on women criminalization and punishment do not explain the state power and its different manifestations (Shoshana Pollack, 2007, p. 171).

Dhillon (2015) argues that there is need to listen to stories, which indigenous girls normally tell in Canada to understand the challenges in their daily lives. The article focuses on live in cities and towns of Canada and the plight of indigenous young women by the law enforcers. The study offers alternative ways to interrogate the kind of violence to ensure that it is dismantled. The author also argues that colored people face great marginalization by the white settler nationalist project thus; decolonization is only possible if indigenous people are involved. Women are blamed for violence they encounter as the narrated stories reveal that many conversations focus on issues related to over-representation.  Settler colonizers are interested in creating a new social and political order to secure a permanent hold on some conquered locales (Dhillon, 2015, p. 6). The lived experiences of indigenous girls depict their realities in relation to the state agents, law enforcers, and youthful workers. There is need to trace the link between then and now to understand the way sexual violence and concomitant disempowerment of indigenous women as well as girls. Colonial gender violence must end to ensure that women attain their rights in the society.

Van der Muelen and Durisin (2008) discuses the international sex workers’ rights movement to call for fight against discrimination in the sex industry. In Canada, the laws do not serve the interest of sex workers since in some cases they make the victims more vulnerable both physically and economically. Many of discussions by feminists are related to political debates on sex work such as violence towards women engaged in prostitution. Focusing on the street work rather than the diverse industry hinders achievement of freedom for the people involved in sex work. The author uses the New Zealand example that gives the health, labor, as well as safety benefits that can be realized by regulating the industry (Van der Muelen and Durisin, 2008, p. 290). Radical feminists translate the ideological response to issues related to prostitution, which leads to inadequacy of focus on sex work agency. However, other feminists and academicians have written work to oppose the radical feminist idea of sex work criticizing the poor research done especially the statistics given. The author gives two examples of researchers, Ronald Weitzer and Frances Shaver which gave descriptions of major flaws in radical feminist body of work (Van der Muelen and Durisin (2008, p. 292 ). For instance, they tend to universalize experiences of prostitution by considering worse scenarios as representative of sex work. Trying to define sex workers as victims opens a way to dismiss personal as well as experiential skills gained via working in the sex industry. Therefore, the sex workers are in a better position to critique the efficiency of the current polices and recommend changes to be implemented. Sex work should be recognized as sex labor rather than slavery or a form of harassment. People that work in the sex industry are assigned roles in various areas such as exotic dancing, massaging, and escort. However, the Canadian laws make it difficult for such workers to protect themselves from harm, exercise control over the working environment, as well as demand for their right to protection. For instance, the Toronto City regulations cover only a small fraction of erotic massage centers that are within its jurisdiction Van der Muelen and Durisin (2008, p. 305). The author recommends a framework that protects the rights of sex workers from exploitation, and promotes their welfare. For instance, New Zealand in 2003 passed the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) aiming to improve the working conditions, safety of the sex workers, and their health (Van der Muelen and Durisin, 2008, p. 307)

Benoit, Jansson, Smith and Flagg (2017) argues that the history of prostitution policies is faced with deep tensions among politicians, religious leaders, feminists, activists for sex workers, as well as health professionals. Buying sexual services is considered as a criminal activity since it leads to disruption of the orderliness of a community (Benoit, Jansson, Smith and Flagg, 2017, p.1). In addition, it leads to exploitation of vulnerable women and girls thus people are forbidden from engaging in it. Sex buyers as well as managers classify sex workers as homogenous group that face oppression and enslavement. The authors argue that there are three regulatory approaches to sex work which include criminalization, legalization, as well descriminalization. Criminalization does not recognize the economic and social aspects of sex workers. This leads to high rates of physical as well as sexual violence against the group. In some cases, there is increased fining and imprisonment, which can go up to six months for buying sexual services. Legalization gives the mechanisms for authorities’ regulation of paid sex transactions once prostitution is decriminalized (Benoit, Jansson, Smith and Flagg, 2017, p.15). The approach assumes that sex work defiles the society, which can be eliminated by regulations by the state. For instance, people working in this industry are subjected to frequent testing in health and cleanliness. Some countries such as Nevada have legalized some brothels leading to positive outcomes to sex workers such as ability to negotiate payments. However, in some cases exploitation can occur as brothel managers can classify as sub-contractors instead of employees. Limiting movement of sex workers outside the brothels is also another limitation despite regulation. Decriminalization entails the removal of sale and purchase of sexual services from the criminal codes (Benoit, Jansson, Smith and Flagg, 2017, p.16).

In conclusion, the four authors agree that discrimination in terms of sex is still common in the countries all over the world. The legal framework continues to push the sex industry underground since the sex workers do their business in fear of criminalization. Shoshana Pollack (2007) concludes that the feminists have been unable to change the nature of criminal justice systems that lead to discrimination of women as well as suffering in incarceration centers. Emily van der Meulen and Elya Maria Durisin (2008) have discussed international rights of sex workers in fighting against discrimination in the sex industry. Benoit, Jansson, Smith and Flagg (2017) argue that there exist deep tensions among politicians, religious leaders, sex activists, and feminists making it difficult to solve the issue of sex work discrimination. Dhillon (2015) argues that listening to stories narrated by indigenous girls can help in understanding of the issues in their daily lives in the cities of Canada.


Benoit, C., Jansson, M., Smith, M., " Flagg, J. (2017). “Well, It Should Be Changed for One, Because It’s Our Bodies”: Sex Workers’ Views on Canada’s Punitive Approach towards Sex Work. Social Sciences, 6(52), 1-17.

Dhillon, J. K. (2015). Indigenous girls and the violence of settler colonial policing. Decolonization: Indigeneity, education " society, 4(2), 1-31.

Pollack, S. (2007). “I'm Just Not Good in Relationships “Victimization Discourses and the Gendered Regulation of Criminalized Women. Feminist Criminology, 2(2), 158-174.

Van der Muelen, E., " Durisin, E. M. (2008). Why decriminalize-how Canada's municipal and federal regulations increase sex workers' vulnerability. Can. J. Women " L., 20, 289-308

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