2. General crime statistics

History of women as juridical subjects

In the Roman law women did not have civil liberty. If they committed a crime they got convicted by magistrate power. The execution of the penalty was often ceded to the husband or other male family members. In the mediaeval times women were not allowed to swear on oath in court, so instead Judgement of God was used. This ended quite often fatal and lethal, even when they were proofed innocent.

With publishing the  “Malleus Maleficarum” (the “Hammer of Witches”,1486) two centuries of witch hunt followed. It is estimated that between 40.000 and 100.000 people, foremost women, have been executed on grounds of Malleus Maleficarum. Preferred execution methods for women were drowning, impalement or being buried alive. The treatise singled out women as specifically inclined for witchcraft, because they were susceptible to demonic temptations through their manifold weaknesses. In Austria the last witch was executed in 1740 and in 1788 the law was cleared of all witchcraft  connected legislation (Unizeit 1/99). Similar judicial changes were  made in left European countries as well. Last executions of people accused of witchcraft were in 1736 in England, 1775 in Germany and 1792 in Poland.

General crime and prison statistics

There is a significant decrease in numbers of women at first as crime suspects, second, as  convicts and third as prisoners:

  1. Crime Suspects: 22 – 24 %
  2. Convictions: 15 – 17 %
  3. Women in prison: 5 %

(Austrian and German Crime Statistics 2005 and 2006 www.bmi.gv.at/kriminalstatistik/; www.bka.de/pks/).

European data about female prisoners show that only between 5% and 10% of all detainees are women. In Austria about 5.7% of prisoners in 2003 have been female, in Belgium 4,1%, in Germany 4,8% and in UK about 6% (source: www.europeansourcebook.org/esb3_Full.pdf).

Women tend to commit less crime and their offences are generally less serious than those of men. In UK in 2004 about 36% of sentenced women had committed drug offences and 17% were convicted of violence against the person (www.hmprisonservice.gov.uk/adviceandsupport/prison_life/femaleprisoners/)

Throughout Europe female convicted committed most common theft:

  • Austria: 19.1%,
  • Belgium: 10.9%,
  • Germany: 25.7%.

In Austria 14.7% of convicted females completed homicide, in Belgium 7.6% and in Germany 11.7%. In other European countries numbers are higher, like in Hungary 22.8% and Finland 17.8% (www.eurochips.org/uk_facts.html#3)

In 2007 5% of the prisoners in Austria were female and the reasons for the imprisonment were as follows:

  • 42 % theft,
  • 22 % robbery, assault and battery,
  • 16 % homicide and attempted homicide,  
  • 11 % drugs.

The female crime rate is increasing in the last decades and noticeable is that the percentage of women convicted for infanticide and theft is higher than that of men.

About 55% of women in prison have a child under 16. According to data from Home Office in UK up to 80% of women in prison have diagnosable mental health problems, with 66% having symptoms of neurotic disorders. Comparable figure in society is less than 20% (www.hmprisonservice.gov.uk/adviceandsupport/prison_life/femaleprisoners/).

Up to 50% of women in prison report having experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse. There are no data about the sexual orientation of women in prisons.

Domestic Violence

The statistic of the Intervention Centres in Austria in 2006 show that 7,7 % of the perpetrators in reported cases of domestic violence were female. Police data from Zürich 1999 – 2001 report 8,3 % female perpetrators. Nevertheless in the Austrian Violence-Report in 2001 a number of 50 % of female perpetrators according to Steinmetz 1977/1978 is quoted. But the critics are also mentioned.

Research from Scotland shows that about 7.2% of victims of domestic violence are men in heterosexual partnerships, about 0.4% are gay and 0.3% are lesbian partnerships. Male heterosexual victims were significantly more likely to be abused by present partner than were female heterosexual victims. Furthermore, they were less likely than female heterosexual victims to have experienced previous abuse. Most common form of force against the partner was being pushed and shoved (88% of male victims), followed by having things thrown at them (75%) and damage to property (53%).  Further, 53% of male victims reported that they had sustained an injury as a consequence of the force used against them.  But none of the men reported medical treatment.


All statistics show that woman – compared to men – are less likely to commit a crime and if they do so, it is at an average a less severe crime. The female crime rate is constantly increasing though and young women act more violently. Infanticide and theft are the offences where the percentage of convicted women is higher than of men.


Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, Deutschland (2005): Gender Datenreport.
Bundesministerium für Gesundheit, Familie und Jugend, Österreich (2001): Gewalt in der Familie- Gewaltbericht.
Bundesministerium für Inneres, Österreich (2002): Sicherheitsbericht. In Frauenratgeberin:
Gadd, David/Farrall, Stephen/ Dallimore, Damian (2002):
Domestic Abuse against Men in Scotland. Scottish Executive Central Research Unit.
Gender Report Sachsen-Anhalt, 2003. www.g-i-s-a.de/Gender-Report2003.html
Kimmel, Michael, S. (2002): ‘Gender Symmetry’ in Domestic Violence. In: Violence Against Women, Vol.8, No.11, November 2002, pp 1332-1363.
Polizeiliche Kriminalstatistik Deutschland, 2006: www.bka.de/pks/pks2006/
Sicherheitsbericht des Österreichischen Bundesministeriums für Inneres, 2002.

Stadtzürcher Kriminalstatistik 1999-2001, in Amnesty-Bericht:
Statistisches Amt für Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein (2005): Strafverfolgung in Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein. www.statistik-sh.de
Unizeit 1/99 (www.uni-graz.at/communication/unizeit/archiv/1999/199/1-99-02.html)

Wiener Interventionsstelle gegen Gewalt in der Familie: www.interventionsstelle-wien.at/

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