Does Gender Affect Judges’ Perceptions of Sexual Assault Cases?

There is growing recognition that females engage in harmful sexual behaviour that is similar in severity and type to males. Existing research, however, suggests that there is a bias towards leniency in judicial systems for female sexual offenders (FSOs) in comparison to male sexual offenders (MSOs). Specifically, FSOs receive shorter sentences than do MSOs and are less likely to be sentenced to prison. The majority of research examining disparity in sentence outcomes for FSOs have been analysed through a quantitative lens. Qualitative methodology is also needed to understand any subjective differences in the way that judges perceive case-relevant factors and whether these perceptions differ as a function of the offender’s gender.

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