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Girls in Youth Gangs in Central America
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Romance Studies and Classics.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Youth gangs, so-called Maras, in Central America have for a long time been one of the major factors contributing to the great amount of organized crime and violence in the Central American countries. The citizens in this region are exposed to violence and other crimes from the gangs on a daily basis. The vast amount of teens joining but also being forced to join the gangs is due to the high levels of poverty in the countries. Becoming a member in a gang is often seen as the only option to make a living.

The study focuses on three countries in Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The reason why the author chose these three countries is because they are the ones with the highest youth gang activity in the region as well as the ones who have faced and still are facing high levels of violence and corruption. They have all faced political, economic, and social challenges after civil wars and increasing drug trafficking in the region. The method used in the study is qualitative through an analysis of secondary sources on young women in youth gangs. The material is analyzed from a gender perspective and also power and social control theory.

The maras mainly recruit teen boys, but also young girls and women. Teen girls are in some cases forced to join the gangs but many times they join the gangs as self- protection from other local maras. The young girls are used for different tasks and duties while in the gang, but also face abuse by being taken advantage of in a male dominated environment.

The essay focuses on the role of young women in gangs. The research questions are: why the young girls join the gangs? What are their roles in the gangs? Are their roles differentiate to the mens?  It is important to observe how the youth gangs function, reflect the patriarchal structures of society in general which has created differences between the sexes where males are seen as superior to females, which also is evident in criminal youth gangs.

The essay shows that the main reasons why young women join gangs are because they are looking for a safe environment due to lacking support and safety at home. The young women’s roles in the gang differentiate from the men in the way that they are assigned tasks according to traditional gender roles where the women are expected to do domestic tasks and excluded from some of the gang activities because of their gender.



Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 40 p.
Keyword [en]
Girls, Youth Gangs, Central America, Violence, Gender, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-131103OAI: diva2:937065
Available from: 2016-06-15 Created: 2016-06-13 Last updated: 2016-06-15Bibliographically approved

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