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Gender and Law in the Japanese Imperium$
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Susan L. Burns and Barbara J. Brooks

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824837150

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824837150.001.0001

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Of Pity and Poison

Of Pity and Poison

Imprisoning Women in Modern Japan

(p.136) Chapter 5 Of Pity and Poison
Gender and Law in the Japanese Imperium

Daniel Botsman

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter traces the forms of punishment to which women were subjected in the period from the mid-eighteenth century to the 1930s. In the early modern period, female criminals were often punished by confinement, either in jailhouses or in the brothel district of Yoshiwara, where they were forced to work as prostitutes. In the 1870s, as modern prisons were constructed, special facilities for women were established, and after 1900 a gender-specific discourse on female prisoners took form, reflecting a new concern for rehabilitation. Influenced by eugenics and class-based notions of femininity, prison officials debated how best to reform female prisoners so that they could become “future mothers of our country.” Then, in the 1920s and 1930s, the number of female prisoners began to decline dramatically, a development which may have been related to the medicalization of female criminality.

Keywords:   female criminals, female criminality, female prisoners, modern prisons, gender-specific rehabilitation, eugenics, femininity

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