Women and Drug Crime

Women have become increasingly involved in drug traffic and related crimes. According to Damien Cave the number of “women incarcerated for federal crimes has grown by 400 per cent since 2007, pushing the total female prison population past 10.000”. Frequently, media report women involved in greater variety of roles within the drug trade rather than the stereotypical mules or capo’s wife. Women are not only victims of drug crimes but also can reach active positions whether is as important dealers, sicarias (killer women) or ganchas (women who use their beauty to attract male kidnapping victims).

Is this involvement a truly way for women’s liberation? Is the traffic of drugs opening a door for the end of macho societies? Media and academia highlight these events over and over again as if women have never had dirty hands. Also they misunderstood the idea of women’s emancipation.  The fact that women are part of violent and drugs crime does not indicate that they have become freer. It is a reproduction of males’ domination in which women assume traditional male roles perpetuating the status-quo.
This feminisation of drug crime has two socio-economical explanations. On one hand, the current economic crisis has expanded the class gap and aggravated the levels of poverty. In this context, women from lower class get involved in trafficking to survive like in for example Namibia and Mexico’s border with US.

On the other hand, there are studies which consider feminisation of crime an attempt for empowerment and emancipation from male’s domination. Cases such as Sandra Avilan-Beltran (the Queen of the Pacific) and Enedina Arellano Felix, alleged head of the Tijuana Cartel, prove that women in high positions of the contraband stratum could achieve unprecedented levels of independence from man. However, as these cases demonstrate, women tend to have access to these positions regarding their relationship with their partners or male family members. 

Last October New York Times reported that the recent media coverage has popularised the idea of feminisation of crime, specifically when it is related to Latin America’s War on Drugs. These events are not only exploited in the news, but also in novels, television and cinema. Films like Colombiana and soap operas like the Queen of the South focus in attractive women young women taking part of gun crimes and drug traffic.
In my opinion, the feminisation of crime and media representation of women involved constitutes a misunderstanding of what is women’s liberation and empowerment.  It misleads women’s involvement in crime reducing it to recent phenomena. When these events appear in the media they not also shock the public; but also are tremendously appealing to the audiences. Soap operas, films and news provide a glamorised and erotised image of women as if being involved in “high” drug crime made them more attractive. Is this the reality that we want for women? Is the illegal drug market the answer to women’s poverty?