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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:African Women, Violent Crime and the Criminal Law in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1900-1952
Author:Zimudzi, Tapiwa B.
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:Zimbabwe
courts of appeal
colonial period
History and Exploration
Women's Issues
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Law, Legal Issues, and Human Rights
Abstract:This article contributes to the emerging historiography on violent female crime in Africa by examining African women's violent crime in colonial Zimbabwe using a feminist conceptual framework. It reconstructs and analyses the experiences of violent African female offenders in the colonial legal system by focusing on colonial High Court judges' perceptions of African women as perpetrators of violent crime and on the female offenders' perceptions of their own criminality. Two interrelated issues constitute the central focus. First, the article shows that colonial judges' interpretations of violent African female criminality often sought to diminish these women's moral responsibility for their crimes and to deny the rational nature of their crimes. Judicial treatment of such accused women was also highly paternalistic and partly based on the offenders' conformity to traditional gender-role stereotypes. Second, the agency of violent African women is highlighted by arguing that, contrary to the opinion of colonial judges, such female offenders were rational agents who had an awareness of the legal merits of their cases and often made a conscious effort to exploit those aspects of the colonial criminal justice system which they believed could work in their favour. The courtroom demeanour of African female offenders and their interpretations of their own crimes are given particular focus. The article is based mainly on an analysis of High Court of Southern Rhodesia criminal records relating to the most preponderant violent crimes committed by African women. These were intra-familial murders, namely spousal murder, the murder of other men and women closely related to the female offender, and the murder of newborn twins. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]