Blog Series: Seven human rights challenges faced by women in detention

Inmate in her cell, 313 remand facility, Albania

Inmate in her cell, 313 remand facility, Albania

This seven-part series looks into the challenges, risks and discrimination faced by women imprisoned around the world. They have been published by: The Oxford Human Rights Hub, Essex Human Rights Centre, Inter-Press Service, Open Democracy, and Penal Reform International, and can be found aggregated on the website of DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture.

They draw from my research in 2013-2014 with DIGNITY among prisons and prison communities in five countries — Albania, Guatemala, Jordan, the Philippines and Zambia — now published as a comparative report: ‘Conditions for Women in Detention: Needs, Vulnerabilities and Best Practices’, and as four country studies.



1. Vulnerabilities during admission

“The first day is the most horrible, the most humiliating.”

2. The particular impact of detention conditions
Published by Open Democracy

“These things make you feel inhuman if you concentrate on them,
so you try to forget them and accept life.” ­  

3. Gendered information vacuums and their impacts
Published by Penal Reform International.

 “All I knew is that two policewomen came to take me. I asked
why, and they said, ‘we’ll just go for a drive’. I only realized
[my fate] when we arrived at the prison.” 

4. Particular vulnerability to abuse
Published by the University of Essex, Human Rights Centre.

“You are surrounded by men and powerless. There are no women
to talk for you. They want to win as men.”  

5. Detained, Female and Dying: Why Prisons must prioritize 
women’s health needs
Published by the Inter-press Service

  “Gradually our lives are deteriorating, and we aren’t free to
do anything about it. You think: ‘there lies my future’. You see death coming
slowly and there’s nothing you can do.” 

6. The importance of contact with the outside world 
Published by the Oxford Human Rights Hub

“I felt isolated from the entire world. If I’d stayed any longer I’d have
started eating the window bars.” 

7. Violations and vulnerabilities in work, education and recreation (forthcoming)

“You get up, you sit on a bench, you eat rotten food. This is all you have,
all you do. If I don’t speak out about these things, I’ll die.”

Pre-trial detainee in the Philippines (detainee's permission obtained)

Pre-trial detainee in the Philippines (permission obtained)