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Published research

Women in Detention: Cross-regional Study

Lusaka Central women's prison, Zambia

Throughout 2013 I have led research missions into prisons and prison communities in Zambia, Jordan, the Philippines and Albania, for DIGNITY - the Danish Institute Against Torture. I'll be presenting the research in a qualitative study, due Spring 2014, that builds global awareness of the needs, vulnerabilities and rights violations of women in detention - and amplifies the voices of such women. The study includes a desk review of UN standards on women in detention (particularly the Bangkok Rules) as well as their their treatment - or lack thereof - by UN treaty bodies. Its primary focus however, is what matters most to the women themselves. The interview methodology combines both a human rights-based and ethnographic approach. This is the first in a series by Dignity on vulnerable groups in detention - with the aim of enhancing their protection by national authorities, ... Read the full article

Sisters in Crisis: Violence against women under India’s Armed Forces Special Powers Act

A number of studies and international legal arguments have been made to challenge the legality of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act ― in force across much of India’s North and East ― by way of India’s constitution, and its international human rights obligations. This paper aims to explore the socio-legal and psychological forms of violence to which women are subjected under the Act, directly and indirectly, using the growing toolkit of international instruments to protect and advance women’s human rights, and in reference to current feminist legal scholarship. By doing so it aims to highlight India’s continuing and resounding failure to progressively realize women’s equality in the North and East, and the often invisible forms of gendered harm wrought by this low-profile yet powerfully destructive emergency law, along with and militarization generally. Access the full legal study : Violence Against ... Read the full article

Dynamic security: political change bad news for the women in Albania’s prisons

325 Womens Prison Tirana Alb 13 (61)

Open Democracy, 11 October 2013   Albania has been leading the Balkan region in its management of women’s prisoners – a complex group to detain and rehabilitate. Now, as a new government is sworn in and politically motivated staff changes look likely, this progress – and the wellbeing of its female inmates – is at risk.  The formation of Albania’s new left-wing coalition this June signalled change for the country on many fronts. Yet one old fashioned tendency will likely pose unintended problems for a small minority – the women in its prisons. “Of course we are pleased with the democratic process,” says Erinda Bllaca, a lawyer with a local human rights NGO that makes regular monitoring visits to the country’s prisons. “But a change in government here unfortunately still means administrative change too. And when staff appointed by the previous ... Read the full article

The Silent Revolution: Quotas in Single Member Districts — The Case of India


This case study was written for a UN Women Guide on Temporary Special Measures in 2012. The quota adopted for women in India’s village-level councils (Gram Panchayats) offers one of the most robust examples of the impact of gender quotas on governance and political life – particularly in single-member districts. One-third of village council membership and council chief positions are reserved for women as part of a series of constitutional reforms to devolve government – the quota has been in place since approximately 1993. The requirement was increased to 50% in 2009 in a bid to safeguard better demographic representation among minorities. Prior to the implementation of gender quotas, India’s political environment, displayed a marked gender, social and ethnic imbalance among its elected bodies. Despite the country bosting a number of influential female political leaders, just over 5% of the members in ... Read the full article

Report on VAWG: Prevention and Multisectoral Services & Responses

UN Women, October 2012  This report is a summary of a global online consultation on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), to support preparations for the UN's 57th Commission on the Status of Women. I organized and moderated the discussion for UN Women. It brought together the views of diverse respondents on the good practices, and key gaps & challenges in presenting and responding to VAWG, with a focus on prevention and services. Participants included representatives from civil society, government organizations, research and leadership institutions and UN agencies across the world. The summary then informed the development of the Secretary-General’s Reports to the Commission on the Status of Women. Download: Online-Discussion-Report_CSW-57 

Report on Reprisals Against Human Rights Defenders at the UN HRC

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), 2012 Respect and Protect? Exploring the need for the United Nations Human Rights Council to strengthen its response to reprisals. This policy paper with the International Service for Human Rights, falls among an expanding body of concern about the reprisals that continue to take place against human rights defenders who cooperate with the Council's key mechanisms, and the Council's responsibilities in this regard. It was written in late 2011 thanks to input from a wide range of human rights practitioners working with and at the UN Human Rights Council. By addressing the extent to which the Council mechanisms rely on private actors and intermediaries, the study contends that it cannot effectively fulfill its mandate without better protecting them – and being seen to be doing so. I first look at the nature of the relationship between Council ... Read the full article

Reconciling Truth and Gender: Lessons for Sri Lanka, published by the Law and Society Trust

This legal study explores the scope of the discrimination facing Sri Lanka’s largest group of war-affected survivors - Tamil women in the North and East of the country - and the need for gender-sensitive truth commissioning following the country's three-decades of conflict. It assesses key legal and practical obstacles to achieving this according to the international legal framework on non-discrimination, and briefly proposes ways to place Tamil women more centrally, and therefore legally, within the transitional narrative. The paper occupied the full December 2011 volume of Sri Lanka's Law and Society Trust Review, a monthly legal journal edited by renowned human rights lawyer, Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena (please see Editor's Note, below), but was featured in various potted forms, such as for popular Sri Lankan media site, Groundviews, and on Open Democracy. The former was cited, as a sound analysis, in the response ... Read the full article

Analysis of gender in Sri Lanka’s reconciliation commissions: published in Groundviews ‘Long Reads’; cited in TNA report

11 November 2011. Long Reads brings to Groundviews long-form journalism found in publications such as Foreign Policy, The New Yorker and the New York Times . This article was cited and quoted by the Tamil National Alliance, in its critique of the LLRC report, in Jan 2012. The power and promise of national exercises like the LLRC lies in the way that they can access the voices of those who have not traditionally been heard, and use them to build a more  inclusive collective memory. Yet for Sri Lanka’s Tamil women, the LLRC simply reaffirms bad old habits, writes Jo Baker In the lead up to the release of the report by Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), strong concerns have been publicly raised about the value of a process that aims to build a clear picture of the conflict, without fully ... Read the full article

‘Defamation of Religions’ research presented at the UN Human Rights Council

Defamations of Religion, HRC, Mar 2011

  I presented research at the 16th UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva at the side event, ‘Evolution of the recent debate on defamation of religions‘, on behalf of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), and the SOAS Human Rights Law Clinic.  The study charts the development of discourse on religious defamation at the United Nations, and analyses blasphemy cases in Pakistan, Syria and Algeria using the international human rights legal framework.  It has been published by the Social Science Research Network (available to download here in full), and was well used by NGOs and delegates at the Session in the lead up to a groundbreaking draft resolution that better preserved the right to free expression. Also on the panel were the Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ibrahim Salama ; Pakistan ... Read the full article