Trends in Organized Crime

, Volume 17, Issue 1–2, pp 31–51 | Cite as

Of bogus hunters, queenpins and mules: the varied roles of women in transnational organized crime in Southern Africa

  • Annette HübschleEmail author


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. In the southern African context, little historical or comparative data is available on the role of women in organized crime. Existing data is basic and proceeds on the assumption of gender-neutrality or the implied male composition of organized crime groups. 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. Reliant on empirical findings undertaken for a regional 3-year project on organized crime trends in southern Africa, this paper will examine the dynamism of the role of women in organized crime in the region and argues that women play a multifaceted role with implications for themselves, their families, society and organized crime. Gender mainstreaming within scholarly literature and policy research is in nascent stages, this paper pleads for a more gender-sensitive approach to organized crime analysis.


Women and transnational organized crime Organized crime Illegal markets Human trafficking Drug markets Rhino poaching 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for the Study of SocietiesCologneGermany

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