The Role of Women in Organized Crime in Europe: A Literature Review

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The Role of Women in Organized Crime in Europe: A Literature Review

During the last decades the world have faced an important revolution in society. Globalization has reconfigured society, creating a new society model with new forms of human relations (Viano, 2010), which challenge social and judicial sciences as criminology, law, and sociology. One of these new human relations is the organized crime and specially its increase and its internationalization. This type of crime involves all areas and actors in society (Pankratz and Matiasek, 2012) and can be defined as a group, with more than two people, which uses violence to reach an advantage (Newburn 2007; UNODC, 2004). This violent characteristic leads usually to the understanding that organized crime is a men’s crime (Siegel, 2014). However, the role of women in society has been changing, and it is more visible now the presence of women in the criminal involvement as well as in the criminal justice system (Leal, 2007; Adler, 1975). Inside organized crime, the role of women have not been completely discussed and unveiled. Siegel (2014) makes an important contribution showing women took a relevant role in criminal organization in some periods of history. From this point on, and reviewing literature on organized crime and gender and crime, we aim to examine the role women have in organized crime in Europe and discuss the mandatory lens for a research intersecting organized crime and gender.


Unidade de Investigação em Criminologia e Ciências do Comportamento, Instituto Superior da Maia

Ana Guerreiro has a bachelor degree in Criminology by University Institute of Maia and a Master’s degree in Legal Medicine by Institute of Biomedical Sciences Abel Salazar of the University of Oporto. For the last two years, she worked at UMAR – Union Women’s Alternative and Response as a Criminologist, specializing in youth gender violence prevention. Her areas of interest include gender studies, gender violence, organized crime and delinquency.


Centro de Investigação em Ciências Sociais, Universidade do Minho & Instituto Superior da Maia

Sílvia Gomes is currently an assistant professor at University Institute of Maia and a postdoctoral grantee in Sociology and Criminology (SFRH/BPD/102758/2014). She is also a researcher at the Interdisciplinary Centre of Social Sciences, University of Minho, and at the Research Unit in Criminology and Behavioral Sciences, University Institute of Maia. She holds a PhD in Sociology (2013). Her main areas of research are focused on crime and media, crime and class, ethnicity and gender issues, reentry, recidivism and criminal desistance.