Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union, released a list of women fugitives on Saturday — from convicted murderers, to human sex traffickers — as part of its new “Crime has No Gender” campaign.
The women-centric campaign drew criticism after Europol spokesperson Claire Georges said the organization “wanted to show that women are just as likely to commit violent crimes as men.”
“Even though the discourse is often around ‘male fugitives,’ women can be just as bad,” she said.
The campaign, aimed at driving up web traffic in hopes of catching criminals, shows fugitives with a digital mask, obscuring their gender, which falls away as viewers scroll down the individual bio.
“Who is hiding under the mask,” the website asks.
The website teases the new campaign by asking, “Are women equally as capable of committing serious crimes as men?”
It answers itself by declaring: “The female fugitives featured on Europe’s Most Wanted website prove that they are. The criminals – of both genders – in this new campaign by EU law enforcement are all wanted for grave offenses like murder, drug trafficking, fraud, theft and trafficking in human beings.”
Europol said it asked 21 of its 28 EU members countries to select one of their most wanted fugitives.
“Many studies have examined how gender plays a role in crime,” Europol says. “The majority of those looked at the gender of the victim but less often at that of the offender. However, in recent decades, the number of women engaged in criminal activity has increased, although at a slower pace than men.”
Europol says one possible explanation is that “that technological progress and social norms have liberated women from the home, increasing their participation in the crime market.”
Those making the list included:
• Elena Puzyrevich, 39, a Russian national wanted for luring young women to Spain under false pretenses and forcing them to work as prostitutes;
•Hilde Van Acker, 56, who was convicted of the murder of British businessman Marcus John Mitchell in Belgium in 1996;
•Hungarian national Ildikó Dudás, who as described as “on the run” for drug trafficking and child abuse;
Among the three males on the list is James Kelly, 57, an Irish national accused of abducting the driver of a truck carrying contraband drugs. Europol says Kelly tortured the driver by cutting off his ear, beating him repeatedly with an iron bar and a sledgehammer and burning his leg with a blowtorch.
In response to the campaign, the Independent, a British newspaper, noted that the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales shows that 74% of perpetrators of violent crimes are male.