Policing Women: Moral Arguments and the Dilemmas of Criminalization

14 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2012

See all articles by Naomi Cahn

Naomi Cahn

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: 2000


This essay concerns the peculiar dilemmas of criminalization for women. I explain the ways in which women are policed, ranging from the monitoring of motherhood to the criminalization of prostitution. This policing may be through the criminal law, civil law, or more subtly, through cultural attitudes that devalue women's work yet simultaneously encourage women to do that work. Hence, I argue that in order to sensitize, reform, and change the criminal justice system, it is critical to consider women's needs.

This essay also pays special attention to the impact of the criminal justice system on children. Specifically, I examine the tension between the interests of children and of women, as well as the role played by the criminal justice system in serving these sometimes conflicting interests.

Keywords: criminalization of women, motherhood, criminal law

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Cahn, Naomi R., Policing Women: Moral Arguments and the Dilemmas of Criminalization (2000). DePaul Law Review, Vol. 49, No. 3, 2000, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-96, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-96, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2165510

Naomi R. Cahn (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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