Girls have tended to be overlooked in youth justice policies and practices
The question of whether or not the crimes committed by or against girls have received equivalent treatment to those of boys is a matter that raises a lot of concern.

Girls and women are known to commit fewer crimes than boys and men. Girls also carry out their crimes later in life, and desist from their crimes sooner than boys. Nonetheless, the point of concern is the treatment they get once they commit the offence in the hands of law enforcers. Youth justice systems have played a role in the sexualization of female delinquency. The youth justice system is seen to have some favour towards a girl offender through preferential treatment given to girls at every stage. For example, it is more likely to prosecute a boy for an offence than a girl. A girl is more likely to be treated as a victim than an offender. A study on magistrates perception in sentencing shows that women are sentenced as troubled offenders while men as troublesome offenders.

Historically, girls have been treated as the vulnerable gender hence requiring a lot of care. Unwarranted caution has been emphasized not to criminalize some of girls survival strategies. Their social expectations to conform to stereotype of femininity have however not prevented them from committing crimes. Interestingly, crimes committed by girls in the past history were dealt with through care systems with an aim of instilling good virtues to them. This is in opposition to criminal justice system. Existing beliefs on what constitutes to delinquent girls behavior has been the key factor in setting up of policies that relate to girls needs among the youth justice system. The broad socio-political, religious and other welfare institutions have emphasizes on girls sexuality and independence. This expectation has raised concern over what is their willful and passionate behaviour. This conflicting perception about their behavior has led to girls experiencing both the advantages and disadvantages of welfares at a higher level than boys    .

Some of these advantages include diversion of their offences from formal juvenile justice system, while disadvantages include sentence up-tarriffing where lesser crimes have attracted longer sentences. Example, in 1999, girls received a higher rate of cautioning. This has led to call for equitable justice between boys and girls. Police has also been given a limit on their discretion at the point of deciding whether to charge or not. This has reduced number of diversions from court.

The growth of lawlessness among young women can be attributed to lack of stringent policies relating to girl based offences. As reported by Youth Justice Board (YJB), there has been an increase in girl based offences by 25 per cent compared to 47,358 offences committed by girls in 2004. There is a growing evidence that, violent crimes are on the rise among female offenders. In 2008, girls were reported to have carried out 15,672 violent attacks in the UK which represent a 50 per cent rise for over the past three years. This can be associated to slackened sentences on women offenders. Less than 10 per cent of the children in custody are girls, though they commit about 20 per cent of offences. This proves the low will of courts to lock up girl offenders.

In Canada, the Young Offenders Act (YOA) of 1986 gave great powers to the police, the judiciary and probation officers. More emphasis has been given to the rehabilitative needs of the offender over the nature and seriousness of the offence committed.

There is a notable difference at sentence stage where at a lower end of seriousness. Girls are found to receive penalties below community sentence at a higher proportion than boys.  For example in 1999, 54.6 per cent of girls convictions resulted to discharges compared to 40 per cent of boys. Girls also accounted for 5 per cent of custodial sentences imposed. March 2008 saw jailing of a 15 year-old girl for filming her male friends beating a man to death in Keinghley, West Yorkshire on her phone. This has raised concern and some evidence suggests that the lenient treatment given to girl offenders is on decline.
In conclusion, it is in no doubt true that the justice system for girls is different from that of boys. This varies from leniency in treatment to the offenders of crime to necessary provisions available in the correction facilities. The perceived motivation for the offence and the demeanor of the defendants should not be biased on gender. Such actions will help in removing the perception that, female offenders are differential and respectful than male offenders as this makes the system treat girls with remorse and compassion.

The law enforcement officials have been found to be lenient on girl based offences. This can be rectified by strengthening of institutions that impact on welfare girls welfare as relates to behaviour formation programmes, education, health, policing, courts, and youth prisons.


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