Gender, ‘Madness’, and Crime: the Doctrine of Infanticide

Arlie Loughnan

in Manifest Madness

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199698592
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738883 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice

Show Summary Details


This chapter takes up the issue of the relationship between gender, ‘madness’, and crime via an examination of the specific case of the infanticide doctrine. It suggests that a dense network of meanings about the interrelationship between gender, ‘madness’, and crime has sustained what is widely regarded as a peculiar or strange legal doctrine into the current era, permitting women who rely on infanticide to slide between the categories of offence and defence, or, more precisely, between charge and plea. A particular social type — the infanticidal woman — has come to determine the legal issue of the defendant's criminal responsibility, and the act of infanticide has come to be read as an instantiation of abnormality for criminal law purposes. In the current era, the doctrine of infanticide is sustained by a lay or nonexpert knowledge about the interrelation of gender, childbirth, and ‘madness’, which over-determines the legal evaluation of infanticidal women and their acts in criminal law.

Keywords: infanticide doctrine criminal law; infanticidal women; criminal responsibility; infanticide

Chapter.  13439 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.