Women and Transnational Organized Crime- By Abhavya Rabra
Women and Transnational Organized Crime
- Abhavya Rabra (Jagran Lakecity Bhopal)
Organized crime is the dirty side of the sharp dollar
By James Chiles
Crime prevention and criminal justice institutions must offer women real and effective protection against violence, exploitation and discrimination. Whether such crimes are committed across borders or not is relevant only to the extent that the transnational nature of the offences may call for different prevention or control strategies. While it will obviously continue to be important to examine how the criminal justice system can help prevent exploitative behaviour and various traditional forms of violence against women, the growing threat posed by transnational organized crime makes it necessary to specifically consider the issue of women’s access to protection against organized crime. Women certainly do not currently receive the level of protection they are entitled to expect from the criminal justice system against the many forms of exploitation and violence they suffer at the hands of transnational criminal organizations.
Furthermore, the impact that criminal law, the criminal justice process and crime prevention strategies generally have on women’s lives continue to deserve urgent and careful scrutiny. One can argue that only a few among contemporary forms of transnational crime actually involve gender-based violence and exploitation, but some of them definitely do. This is clearly the case of various organized criminal activities relating to trafficking in women and children for the purpose of various forms of exploitation. There is clear evidence of women s and children s particular vulnerability to certain forms of transnational organized crime. There are also reports of increasing recruitment of women into criminal organizations. Under the United Nations current definition, violence against women means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. The primary focus of that definition is on traditional forms of violence at the domestic level. However, it also includes other forms violence related to exploitation, forced prostitution and trafficking, all of them crimes which are often committed across borders and are likely to involve criminal organizations.
However, even if law enforcement was considered to be the answer, experience indicates that law enforcement alone will not seal the borders or restrict the trafficking. Moving beyond the war on illegal migrants rhetoric, the international community is emphasizing the need to understand the context: political, economic and social environments; the motivations of the illegal migrating populations and other non-illegal migrant groups; the identity of those who exploit and/or are serviced by the migrants. Punishment, prevention and protection (including human right protection) must all remain the main pillars of an effective strategy to combat trafficking in human beings. In their zeal to punish traffickers and protect the integrity of their borders, states must take care not to inadvertently violate the principle of doing no harm to trafficked persons, for example, by increasing the risk of exposure to abuse by third parties. There is a clear need to ensure that the individuals falling victim to such criminal practices are protected.
Organized crime scholars have paid scant attention to gender and stereotyped roles of women in the commission of organized crime activities. Traditionally, organized crime is seen as a form of criminality perpetrated by men only. Women are usually portrayed as victims of organized crime or as “mean girls”, girlfriends, wives, lovers of brides of notorious gangsters and mobsters. The link of women to organized crime is one of suffering and exploitation. However, in reality women fulfill varied roles and functions within transnational organized crime networks in the region. In some instances, they are the foot soldiers of drug and human trafficking syndicates. Sometimes they are the intermediaries or powerful matriarchs at the apex of transnational organized crime networks. The role of women in transnational organized crime has come under the spotlight in recent years. Whereas women used to be portrayed as victims of crime rather than perpetrators, recent scholarly articles allude either to changing dynamics or to stereotyped misconceptions about women’s involvement in crime. Gender nonetheless remains the most influential determinant of criminality, even more so than a person’s socio-economic, educational or employment status.
Today, a criminal considers the world as his field of operation. He commits a crime in one country, deposits the money derived from criminal activities in an offshore bank in another country and takes refuge in yet another country. The widespread political, economic, social and technological changes as well as variations in legislation, procedures and policies in different countries on mutual assistance in criminal matters have allowed organized crime groups to become increasingly active in the international arena. International criminal organizations are taking full advantage of globalization of world markets, dismantling of trade barriers, the increased ease of international travel, liberalized emigration policies, high-tech communications equipment and sophisticated money laundering techniques to enhance and further their criminal efforts and to forge alliances with other criminal groups. They are engaged in such felonious activities as illicit drug trafficking, money laundering, the use of violence and extortion, acts of corruption, trafficking in women and children, illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, environmental crime, credit card fraud, computer related crime, illegal trafficking of stolen vehicles, industrial espionage and sabotage, maritime piracy, etc. The problems raised by the current acceleration of the globalization process cannot be brought under control unless various governments coordinate the strategies and policies at the national level with the strategies, policies and regulations issued at the international level.
Criminal gangs have been operating in India since ancient times. There is no firm data to indicate the number of organized criminal gangs operating in the country, their membership, their modus operandi and the areas of their operations. Thousands of organized criminal gangs operate in the countryside. Their structure and leadership patterns may not strictly fall in the classical Italian Mafia module. They may sometimes be operating in loose structures, but the depredations of such criminal gangs are too well known to be recounted. However, the purpose of organized crime in India, as elsewhere in the world, is monetary gain and this is what makes it a formidable force in today’s socio-political set up. In India, organized crime is at its worst in Mumbai, the commercial capital of the country. The first well-known organized gang to emerge in recent times was that of Varadharajan Mudaliar in the early sixties. His illegal activities included illicit liquor, gold smuggling, gambling, and extortion and contract murders. Three other gangs emerged shortly thereafter, namely, Haji Mastan (gold smuggling), Yusuf Patel (gold smuggling) and Karim Lala (drug smuggling).
Illicit drug trafficking is the most significant transnational organized crime which has become a serious issue confronting both developing and developed countries. In most countries, despite years of drug suppression and prevention efforts, the cycle of drug trafficking and drug abuse continues. If allowed to remain unabated, the drug menace will considerably destroy the quality of life of people and hamper countries in their social, economic and cultural development. India is a vast country with land borders extending over more than 15000 kilometers and a sea coast line of over 7000 kilometers. India’s narcotic problem needs to be visualized from its geographical situation. Additionally, Nepal, a traditional producer of cannabis, both herbal and resinous, fringes the country in the North.
India is a traditional producer of licit opium for medicinal and scientific purposes. It is grown in three states, namely, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh under official control of Narcotics Commissioner. A part of the licit opium enters the illicit market in different forms. Although opium production is strictly under Government control in India, illicit poppy plantations have been reported in some places. Besides, there is illicit cultivation of opium in the hill tracks of some states.
India has a large presence of chemical industries producing precursor materials like acetic anhydride, acetyl anthranilic acid, etc. for lawful purposes. These chemicals are also utilized for processing and manufacturing heroin. The illicit cultivation of opium as well as the precursor chemicals can be used for the manufacture of heroin. For the last several years, India has also become a base for the manufacture of heroin, particularly in and around the opium producing districts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The illicit drug trade in India has centered around five major narcotic substances namely heroin, hashish, opium, herbal cannabis and methaqualone. Although the use of India by the drug traffickers as a transit country has resulted in an increase in drug abuse due to the spill-over effect, drug addiction in India has not assumed such a serious magnitude as in some of the western countries, but there are no grounds for complacency. Firearms trafficking is a global phenomenon and generally resorted to for generating profit, purchasing narcotics and supporting illegal activities of organized criminal groups. In India, the states of Punjab which were affected by terrorist activities during the 1980s and Jammu & Kashmir have been particularly vulnerable to arms trafficking across the border. India has a long border with Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
A firearm trafficking is a global phenomenon and generally resorted to for generating profit, purchasing narcotics and supporting illegal activities of organized criminal groups. In India, the states of Punjab which were affected by terrorist activities during the 1980s and Jammu & Kashmir have been particularly vulnerable to arms trafficking across the border. Child-porn sites showcase India as a paedophile’s paradise. However, most Indians still discount child porn on the net as a western perversion. Paedophilia and more so its prevalence online is still not a priority crime for the police in India. The Indian mind set is such that few are willing to accept that their children can be at such risk.
Crime pays and criminals naturally want to be able to enjoy their profits without worrying about the police or the courts. This is not a new economic or sociological problem. However, geopolitical developments over the past 50 years together with economic globalization have meant that the international movement of money has increased. The rapid expansion of international financial activity has gone hand-in-hand with the development of transnational crime, which takes advantage of political borders and exploits the differences between legal systems in order to maximize profits. The groups involved are genuinely multinational and pose a direct threat to the financial stability of economic systems. They destabilize democracy because they are backed by clandestine networks subject to the law of the underworld. Money laundering cannot be disassociated from other forms of crime. It is a fact that it thrives on corruption. Corrupt people use financial techniques to hide their fraudulently obtained assets and the continued successful application of these techniques depends on the involvement of influential accomplices.
Money laundering is therefore at the centre of all criminal activity, because it is the common denominator of all other criminal acts, whether the aim is to make profits or hide them. Laundering operations are, in fact, intended more to conceal the origin of the money than its criminal nature, in other words to hide the traffic from which it is derived rather than the general criminal activity which actually generated it. It is therefore essential to move the money in order to scramble the route it takes. The operation is wholly successful when the nature of the money is also concealed and it is impossible to establish a link with any criminal activity because the different circuits taken give it the appearance of legitimate income.