An American sociologist Robert K Merton developed what is often called the Strain Theory of crime. According to this concept, crime is produced by the strain in societies that; (a) tell people that wealth is available to all, but also; (b) restrict some people’s access to the means of acquiring this wealth.
These are the poor and because the lower class in such societies cannot legally obtain the things they want, they resort to crime. The punishments that keep members of the middle and upper class out of trouble have no effect on the minds of the poor. They have little to lose.
One of the most influential sociological explanations was the anomie (normlessness) theory, coined by Emile Durkheim, one of the most erudite sociologists of the 20th century. According to Durkheim, modern industrial life has become so diverse and impersonal that consensus about what is right and what is wrong has broken down.
We may take an example from our African experience. When people migrate from rural centres to towns, they leave behind tribal customs and methods of upholding norms. They mix with people of very different customs and norms. It is as if things had fallen apart. Everyone behaves anyhow to cope with city life.
Moral principles do not count much with such people; hence, they easily succumb to the permissiveness of town life. A girl who would not practise commercial sex in a village easily does this in town. There is no community pressure to stop her.
Criminal activities have been on the increase in Malawi during the past 20 years. Some people say multiparty politics ushered into the country freedoms which are being abused. They advocate harsher sentences. They say harsher sentences deter people from repeating the crime they have committed while others are deterred by such legislation.
The liberals deny that harsh punishments reduce crimes. They say they just make the condemned very bitter. One thing is certain; crimes such as murder, corruption and burglary are less common in certain countries than in others. There is no point adopting the attitude “we cannot help it”. The police, court officials, religious leaders and social scientists should from time to time, meet and try to reason together about crime prevention or reduction.
The heading of this essay included the word ‘immorality’. I have deliberately given this social blot less space. However, what we see these days is that we are drifting into an age when the word immorality will be extinct.
Those who champion homosexuality should tell us how the partners address each other. In conventional marriages, a woman refers to the man as husband, the man refers to the woman as wife. When two men are married, the terms husband and wife are not applicable. A woman cannot refer to another woman as wife or a man to another man as husband. Does the same person alternatively play the role of wife and husband?
This relationship should be called something else, not marriage. In a marriage, there is a wife and a husband. It should be registered under that correct nomenclature.