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Judicial inequality and gender bias
The foundation of every judicial system is fairness, impartiality, and justice for all. Whether a defendant in a criminal case or a litigant in a civil matter, everyone who avails themselves of the legal system should come before the court on even ground. In fact, bias and prejudice are the moral antitheses of justice.

However, the harsh reality is that most judicial systems display a clear bias against one group of people. Many are surprised to find out that the bias is towards men. Statistically, men end up with longer criminal sentences, stricter civil penalties, and less parental rights in family matters than women. This article will explore the gender bias experienced by men in both criminal and civil matters.

Criminal Matters

According to Prof. Sonja Starr from the University of Michigan Law School, "men receive 63% longer sentences on average than women do," and "(w)omen are…twice as likely to avoid imprisonment if convicted." (See, "Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases." Web. 03 Oct. 2016 ). Additionally, Prof. Starr's research revealed that men in the United States are 15 times more likely to be sent to jail as women. The problem, according to Starr is that "the key control variable is itself the result of a host of discretionary decisions made earlier in the justice process."

("Study finds large gender disparities in federal criminal cases, https://www.law.umich.edu/newsandinfo/features/Pages/starr_gender_disparities. as accessed October 03, 2016).

What this means is that many judges, attorney, and prosecutors are more likely to sympathise with women than men. This sympathy is not an issue created by law but rather one borne of human prejudice and ignorance.

For example, when a man accuses his wife of physical spousal abuse many prosecutors will look at the size and assumed strength of the man and immediately discount his claims, internally reasoning that "this smaller female could not have abused her husband."

However, if a woman claims abuse the prosecutor will again look to the size and strength of the man and reason that the woman was abused. This internal analysis occurs before any formal application of the law. It is a matter of human nature and bias that unfairly slants the playing field against the man. Thus, the man enters the courtroom at a disadvantage before he can even tell his side of the story.

The other factor concerning the prosecution of a criminal case is that the majority of prosecutors only takes cases that they believe they can win. Often, they shy away from cases that can cast negative attention on them. One such public relations nightmare is the prosecution of women.

Take, for example, the sentencing of Real Housewives of New Jersey star, Teresa Giudice. After she had been convicted of bankruptcy, fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, there was an outcry of public opinion outraged over her conviction.

Internet forums and chat rooms buzzed about her innocence and blamed her husband, Joe Giudice, for putting her in the situation. Public opinion was that she was a victim of her husband's crimes. This sentiment seemed to carry over to her sentencing where she received a 15-month sentence, which was reduced to 13, while her husband was sentenced to 41 months in prison.

As evidenced by the court's sentencing of Teresa Giudice, the bias in criminal courts is not limited to the prosecutors. In fact, according to the Huffington Post, a 2009 study suggested the difference in sentencing might arise because "judges treat women more leniently for practical reasons, such as their greater caretaking responsibility." (See, "Men Sentenced to Longer Prison Terms than Women for Same ..." Web. 03 Oct. 2016).

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Criminal Justice, "From Initial Appearance to Sentencing: Do Female Defendants Experience Disparate Treatment?" found that women were less likely than men to be detained before trial; were released on lower bond amounts; and were 58 per cent less likely in general, to be sentenced to prison.

(See, Goulette, Natalie; Wooldredge, John; Frank, James; Travis, Lawrence III. "From Initial Appearance to Sentencing: Do Female Defendants Experience Disparate Treatment?" Journal of Criminal Justice, August 2015, Vol. 45. doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2015.07.003.)

Family Matters

The bias against men is also prevalent in civil court, family law matters. In general, men face an uphill battle in divorce and custody disputes on a systematic basis. In most courts, women are given preferential treatment and are more often awarded alimony, despite being able to earn money and are given full custody of their children far more frequently than men.

The theory behind alimony is to keep the woman at the same socio-economic level as she was during the marriage. However, many courts seem to use alimony as a punishment against men. Far too many men are forced to continue paying high, monthly alimony payments even though their ex-wives are earning a comfortable living or are re-married.

In certain states, like New Jersey and Vermont, men are required to pay permanent alimony even if their ex-wife is working. Sure, it's not supposed to work that way, but the fact is, it does.

Men also get the short end of the stick when it comes to custody issues. Typically, courts favor joint custody. However, women are given greater deference by the courts concerning custody. While fathers play major roles in the lives of their children, studies show that in nine out of ten divorced families, sole custody is awarded to the mother. (See Richard A. Warshak, The Custody Revolution: The Father Factor and the Motherhood Mystique 17 (1992)

Beyond alimony and custody, many states permit women to act without the consent of the man in matters concerning pregnancy and the decision to give up a baby for adoption. Often, the father of the unborn child has no rights whatsoever. How is this just? The fact is, it is not.

Conclusion

Many people dispute that gender bias is alive and well in the legal system. However, the facts are clear - men are statically at a disadvantage over women in both criminal and civil legal matters. This prejudice is something that must change or justice will never be achieved in our society.

Note: I have quoted lot of examples from the US and other countries as the data is readily available. Also, I feel it shouldn't matter as by nature we Indians believe in white supremacy.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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