Home » Human Rights » Female Robbers – a New Breed of Criminals

When a woman commits a crime, the usual explanation is that it is involuntary, defensive or a result of some mental illness or hormonal imbalance inherent in the female physiology.

But that explanation no longer holds water following a spate of armed robberies involving women that have shocked Zimbabweans in the past two years.

Far from being “sissy”, fragile beings that the world is accustomed to, women are fast becoming daredevils in crime, pushing the boundaries in a way no one ever imagined before.

And hold on: there has been a rising phenomenon of female rapists who have been on the prowl on the country’s highways.

The women, usually moving around in groups driving private cars, offer lifts to unsuspecting male hitch-hikers. Once in the car, and after driving for a long distance, the women pounce on the man before administering some potent drugs to tranquillise him.

The women then gang rape the hapless man and harvest his semen.

The motive of the crime is yet to be established but various accounts say that the semen is used for ritual purposes. Others say it is used for medicinal purposes, especially the manufacture of cosmetics.

Although the crime has been rampant, few arrests have been made yet owing to a number of factors.

However, females taking part in robberies are less elusive, yet getting more dangerous by the day.

Although there are no ready statistics, reported police and court cases show that the country now has a breed of female criminals who are terrorizing the public, acting in cahoots with male accomplices.

Despite the long perceived physical limitations, women now have the dexterity to pinch from financial coffers, carry out highway robberies right up to raiding service stations, while armed to the teeth.

“The environment has changed. Society expects a lot from us and we are showing that women can do as much as men and even more,” says Jean, an ex-convict jailed in 2002 for being an accomplice in a bank robbery along Robert Mugabe Road, which became known as the Malula robbery.

And only this week, in a dramatic incident witnessed in Harare on Monday, a suspected female armed robber was shot and injured in a high speed chase with the police, while her male accomplice escaped unhurt.

Reminiscent of scenes in the movie Salt, where the fugitive Angelina Jolie – acting as a Russian spy – evaded a spray of bullets from all angles, the suspected female armed robber was shot together with three male accomplices while running away from police.

The latest incident is one of many occurrences police have recorded in the last two years, where women have been part of robbery gangs terrorizing residents. In several crimes committed last year, female robbers posed as genuine passengers while waiting to pounce on unsuspecting commuters. As a result 3 499 people were kidnapped and robbed by pirate taxi and kombi drivers working in cahoots with female robbers countrywide last year.

The situation was more pronounced in Harare where at least 1200 cases of kidnapping and robberies by public transport drivers working in cahoots with female accomplices, were recorded in the last quarter of last year. In February this year, a woman and two men who robbed unsuspecting travellers they offered transport while wearing the Zimbabwe National Army regalia were jailed for eight years after being convicted of several counts of robbery.

The lady, Nyarai Mutumwa (23), together with her two male accomplices, committed a spate of robberies along the highway while masquerading as genuine army officers. She was jailed for an effective two years and eight months in February this year.

Although Nyarai benefited from the Presidential amnesty soon after incarceration, she was not released, but remains locked away awaiting sentencing for vehicle theft charge.

Last year police arrested several armed robbers working with female accomplices in well coordinated syndicate where the gangs terrorised residents in and around Harare.

In one of the cases four robbers who went on a robbery and rape spree were jailed for 52 years, while their female accomplice, Faina Siniri, was jailed for 10 years for robbery.

In one of the raids, police last year arrested seven suspected robbers, including two women following a spate of robberies in and around Harare. The seven were in the habit of offering lifts to people before robbing them of their valuables and cash.

Although there is no clear explanation for the increase of female robbers, observers point to an increase in desperation by the women to earn extra money due to unemployment.

The women are also said to be prostitutes who have all along been preying on potential clients and setting them up for robbers.

However, psychologists say women engaging in crime do so after perceiving themselves to possess significantly more masculine characteristics.

“Specifically, offenders perceived themselves as glamorous, aenturous, rude and more violent than their peers. They see themselves as more aggressive than their female counterparts,” notes an American psychologist Lee Bryant.

Engaging in violent crime like robbery has for long been considered a male domain because of the risks involved that include shoot outs and highway chases that may result in death.

Masculinity and crime are said to be inherently linked, hence there is a higher percentage of men incarcerated in jails across the globe, and the nature of crimes they are jailed for as compared to women. It is for this reason that the increases in women engaging in violent crimes has led to some concluding that this must be as a result of women’s increased “masculinity”.

The majority of women now fend for themselves, go to the war front as peacekeepers, fly airplanes and are involved in rescue missions regularly, giving them a competitive edge over men.

Jean believes the majority of female criminals are involuntarily co-opted by their partners.

“My involvement in the robbery was nothing major. I only wanted to assist my boyfriend but things got out of hand,” recalls Jean, who was sentenced to three years for her involvement in the bank robbery along Robert Mugabe Road.

However, criminologists say that criminal incidences involving women are nothing out of the ordinary because female offenders represent a small fraction of crimes committed throughout the country.

The situation is redeemable, they say.

“It is not yet a big problem. The country does not have females committing crimes on their own, but they are part of male-female teams, and it is clear they are mere accomplices and are not master minders,” said Ms Rita Nyamupinga, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Female Prisoners Supporters Trust.

While involvement of women in robberies might be a fairly new phenomenon in Zimbabwe, the problem is being experienced in a number of countries across the globe.

In some parts of Nigeria, female robbers are on the increase, with a Muslim robber called Alhaja said to be leading a group of female armed bandits that has unleashed a reign of terror in towns and cities.

In Europe, Australia has reported a 40 percent increase in female armed robberies, targeting public transport users as well as other women.

Although female armed robbers are still relatively few, the Australian Institute of Criminology’s National Armed Robbery Monitoring Programme for 2010 found lone women or groups of women were responsible for 270 armed robbers, with a further 264 incidences involving male and female offenders.

Source : The Herald