Women have been integral to the drug trade and criminal underworld, yet their experiences are frequently overlooked, fetishized, or deemed exceptions. Along the U.S.-Mexico border, women oversee money laundering, facilitate cross-border drug flows, and have held leadership positions in violent cartels. Elsewhere in Latin America, women assume pivotal roles as bosses, confidantes, and business partners in illicit trades. In Europe, the Neapolitan criminal underworld is shaped by female leaders and foot soldiers. In Asia, women have at times become some of the most notorious and feared criminals. Yet policies concerning organized crime rarely factor in the influence and role of women. Does that need to change to achieve better policy outcomes?
On November 27, the Brookings Institution’s Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors brought together leading experts to delve into the diverse roles women play in organized crime. The discussion explored how women actively engage in organized crime enterprises, challenged common misconceptions, and explored the need for gender-informed policy adjustments in the fight against organized crime.
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