From cooks and coca harvesters to owners of their drug empires or trafficking and smuggling networks, women operate in a versatile manner, challenging traditional stereotypes about how they participate in criminal groups.
This investigation by InSight Crime and Universidad del Rosario’s Colombian Organized Crime Observatory reveals the complexity of female roles inside organized crime and questions the tendency to present women only as victims, or in some cases, as victimizers.
In Latin America, the participation of women in organized crime has been in the shadow of academic and public policy debate due to the male dominance in the different criminal economies and the tendency to see criminal activities as a “man’s activity.”
A look at the main roles of women in organized crime, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, and migrant smuggling.
Women’s participation in organized crime groups is not uniform. The diverse roles that women play in criminal economies allow us to characterize different types of participation, forming a spectrum that ranges from subordinates and victims to protagonists, leaders and perpetrators.
As has been reiterated throughout this report, the participation of women in organized criminal economies is becoming ever more relevant and is accelerating. Studies of this phenomenon, which have been fundamental in understanding this situation, are still too few given their importance and magnitude.