Published research

Conditions for Women in Detention in Zambia: Needs, Vulnerabilities and Good practices

Dignity Publication; Series on Torture and Organised Violence No. 12 (2015) Jo Baker and DIGNITY - Danish Institute Against Torture  

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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

While conditions for women in Zambia’s under-resourced prison system are largely considered better than those for men, a closer look tells a different story. As a minority, it may be that various women’s facilities suffer from less (yet still chronic) congestion, are subject to lighter security restrictions, and allow more flexibility, at the discretion of the warden. Yet as revealed by this study, there is a broad, acute and harmful lack of consideration for the special needs of women in detention, in forms acknowledged by and less visible to officials and personnel in the Zambia Prison Service (ZPS or Prison Service). These gaps are detrimental to the dignity and wellbeing of female detainees and breach many of their human rights.

Key among these gaps are a lack of basic hygiene provisions and gender-specific healthcare. These present particular risk to the health of inmates, among others, who are pregnant, living with HIV, accompanied by young children or for those who, because of stigma or distance from family (which are both, in many cases, worse for men than women), have no outside assistance at all. Although the Prison Service should be commended for the continued opening of prisons to outside support and a human rights approach, it must observe its State responsibility to meet detainees’ basic needs.

Female inmates were largely found to be isolated from family, including children, and from other forms of outside support, which research has indicated is likely to be more harmful to women than men, in general, from a psychological and material perspective. For the women interviewed in Zambia, this was often the greatest cause of anxiety and despair (as summarized in the section, What Matters Most). Female inmates lack access to vocational, educational and recreational activities that are made available to men; they are also unremunerated, even though many women face extreme anxiety about supporting themselves and any dependents on release, given their frequent (and gendered) rejection from their husbands, families and communities. Key, also, are discriminatory barriers to complaint and information that place them at risk. The Offender Management role has been seen to fill critical gaps in admissions screenings and orientation for female inmates, in identifying special needs and connecting them with needed services and counselling, but it is under resourced and under supported institutionally.

Men and women are separated in law and to a great extent, in practice, and inmates were protected from gender-based violence and harassment by men in the facilities visited by DIGNITY, according to our research. In contrast to reports of police custody, a sharp decline in the use of physical violence and torture against women by prison staff has also been reported in recent years, among other improvements. Yet DIGNITY is concerned that sexual relationships with male staff are not fully prevented in some facilities, and degrading and harmful disciplinary measures were also found to be used by female staff, including body searching practices.

Attention to staff training, gender awareness and attitudes would make a great difference — particularly among female staff -- as would measures to encourage free, regular and dignified contact with family and children; structured activities to engage and empower women (personally and economically); and greater attention to sanitation and health provisions, particularly for pregnant women, new mothers, and children. While these may be most important for women with long sentences, they are also urgently needed in small rural prisons, where women may have very little provided for them.

Dignity Publication; Series on Torture and Organised Violence No. 12 (2015) Jo Baker and DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture  

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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

While conditions for women in Zambia’s under-resourced prison system are largely considered better than those for men, a closer look tells a different story. As a minority, it may be that various women’s facilities suffer from less (yet still chronic) congestion, are subject to lighter security restrictions, and allow more flexibility, at the discretion of the warden. Yet as revealed by this study, there is a broad, acute and harmful lack of consideration for the special needs of women in detention, in forms acknowledged by and less visible to officials and personnel in the Zambia Prison Service (ZPS or Prison Service). These gaps are detrimental to the dignity and wellbeing of female detainees and breach…

Continue Reading Share

New study sheds light on women in Jordanian prisons

What are the particular needs, issues, risks and vulnerabilities that face imprisoned women in Jordan? And does the prison management comply with international standards? These questions lie at the heart of DIGNITY’s research into conditions for women in detention in five countries — of which the Jordan country study is one part.

The strong social norms and forms of discrimination that women face in Jordan reach deep into places of detention, and their experience of being detained. To be a detained woman here, in many cases, is to lose touch with the majority of your family members and your children despite an acute need for intimate and social contact, and to feel isolated from the outside world. It is often to be heavily stigmatized by your own community, and by prison staff. It is to have likely experienced forms of gender-based violence before entering prison — some physically and mentally debilitating in the name of honour — and to not receive the help that you need in order…

Continue Reading Share

Evidence review on sexual and reproductive rights and gender equality published by the IPPF

This is the second report in the Vision 2020 series, published by the International Planned Parenthood Foundation  this publication."SRHR- the key to gender equality and women’s empowerment" sets out how SRHR is critical to gender equality and women’s empowerment across three dimensions. It explores how ensuring universal access to SRHR can promote economic growth, social equity and political participation. My evidence review and policy recommendations inform and are reproduced in the first of three sections, on equality in social development. The report also draws on my research into pathways of empowerment.

Download the report
The research examines the relationship between SRHR and three key aspects of social development: health, education, and sexual and gender-based violence, as critical to the empowerment and equality of girls and women all spheres of development.  Among other areas, it highlights that globally, the single leading risk factor for death and disability in women of reproductive age in low‑and middle‑income countries is unsafe sex, mainly due to HIV, and to maternal mortality; that girls in smaller families tend to have fewer care taking responsibilities, girl children are valued more, gender and family dynamics are more supportive of girls and women, and there are lower rates of adolescent pregnancy; and that convincing links have been shown between the care‑giving roles and economic responsibilities of children in families living with HIV and disruptions to schooling for girls. It highlights too that screening for violence in the context of SRH services can be effective in preventing the recurrence of violence and enabling the empowerment of women and girls.

This is the second report in the Vision 2020 series, published by the International Planned Parenthood Foundation  this publication.”SRHR- the key to gender equality and women’s empowerment” sets out how SRHR is critical to gender equality and women’s empowerment across three dimensions. It explores how ensuring universal access to SRHR can promote economic growth, social equity and political participation. My evidence review and policy recommendations inform and are reproduced in the first of three sections, on equality in social development. The report also draws on my research into pathways of empowerment.

Download the report
The research examines the relationship between SRHR and three key aspects of social development: health, education, and sexual and gender-based violence, as critical to the empowerment and equality of girls and women all spheres of development.  Among other areas, it highlights that globally, the single leading risk factor for death and disability in women…

Continue Reading Share

New publication: Conditions for Women in Detention – Needs, vulnerabilities and good practices

DIGNITY - The Danish Institute Against Torture, Jun 2014. 

What are the issues, risks and vulnerabilities that face imprisoned women across the world? How is this being addressed by those who detain them? And is this well reflected in the attention they receive by the UN human rights treaty bodies? These questions lie at the heart of this study, written by Jo Baker with Therese Rytter for DIGNITY.
            Find the executive summary and full report here
                                       Find a two-page summary of findings and recommendations here
 

While all human beings are vulnerable when deprived of their liberty, certain groups are at particular risk. For women, the discrimination that they face in broader society reaches deep into places of detention such as prisons, which are largely still designed and managed for men, by men. As a minority ― although a growing one in many counties ― detained women are often overlooked at the expense of their dignity, wellbeing and human rights. Yet, as now well established in international law, women’s specific needs require different and sometimes greater attention in order for women to enjoy their rights equally to men. As particularly well established in the recently adopted UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules) there are concrete ways in which this must be done.

This study focuses on conditions for women in detention, and works by theme, from physical conditions and provisions, to areas such as health, safety and work. For each, DIGNITY presents the level of protection that has developed for detained women in international standards, and determines whether this has been well reflected in the jurisprudence of four major UN human rightstreaty bodies in the past six years (2008-13).

Dignity has intertwined this review with empirical research in women’s prisons in five very different countries, with emphasis on the voices of inmates themselves. During in-depth, private conversations, we have asked detained women, what matters most to you?

This research was conducted in Albania, Jordan, Guatemala, the Philippines, and Zambia in 2013 and early 2014, among almost 90 detained or formerly detained women in 11 facilities, and more than 80 prison staff and others working with detained populations, from NGOs staff to lawyers and social workers.

DIGNITY hopes that this study, and the voices of those in it, will contribute to the effective planning, programme development and policy formulation for women in places of detention, along with the advocacy for their better protection, and broader awareness and understanding of a group, which has, until very recently, been largely invisible in human rights discourse.

DIGNITY – The Danish Institute Against Torture, Jun 2014. 

What are the issues, risks and vulnerabilities that face imprisoned women across the world? How is this being addressed by those who detain them? And is this well reflected in the attention they receive by the UN human rights treaty bodies? These questions lie at the heart of this study, written by Jo Baker with Therese Rytter for DIGNITY.
            Find the executive summary and full report here
                                       Find a two-page summary of findings and recommendations here
 

While all human beings are vulnerable when deprived of their liberty, certain groups are at particular risk. For women, the discrimination that they face in broader society reaches deep into places of detention such as prisons, which are largely still designed and managed for men, by men. As a minority ― although a growing one in many counties ― detained women are often overlooked at the…

Continue Reading Share

Legal Study: 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 Women under India’s AFSPA J Baker

 

This paper was written as part…

Continue Reading Share

Case Study: The Silent Revolution – Quotas in Single Member Districts: 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 its lower parliament were women and less than 5% in lower councils, or panchayats.

The three-tiered Panchayat system introduced the 1990s is comprised of three levels: the village (Gram Panchayat), block  (Panchayat Samiti) and district level councils (Zilla Parishad).  Members are directly elected for a five-year term. Although the system had existed formally since India’s independence, it only became an effective body of governance in all states in the 1990s when a constitutional amendment established a country-wide three-tiered framework with regular elections (using the first-past-the-post system).

At the lowest tier, Gram Panchayats comprise between 5 and 15 villages. Each is responsible for the local administration of public goods, implementing development programs and responding to the needs of villages under its jurisdiction, from local infrastructure projects to identifying welfare recipients and resolving disputes. Each has flexibility in allocating funds. 

Candidates are generally put forward by political parties and are resident in the villages they represent. After the council members are elected, members elect a chief or Pradhan from among themselves (the sole council member with a full-time appointment) along with an Upa-Pradhan or Vice-Chief. Council decisions are made by majority voting, and although the Pradhan does not hold veto authority, s/he has the final say on fund allocations and beneficiaries. 

Quotas for women

The implementation of quotas was made possible by the move to decentralize and create a political structure that better included poor and marginal groups. The system included quotas for two of India’s disadvantaged minorities, as well as women.  The gender quota applies to all seats whether or not they are also reserved for minorities.

The constitutional amendment required states to reserve one-third of Panchayat council seats and leader positions, including the Gram Panchayat, using a rotation system.  The rules that govern the selection of reserved districts for the have varied by State, but all ensure random rotation and have generally been fully implemented.

Impact

Among India’s 2,65,000 village governing bodies, more than a million women have since been elected into the reserved positions in these panchayats. Studies have reported a broadly representative section of caste and class, with lower caste women are as likely to serve on the panchayats as lower caste men. While some women have been perceived as a stand-in for male relatives, this has not been extensively reported.

The randomized nature of this quota has allowed the causal impact of female leadership to be measured. Studies have been able to compare perceptions and policies in villages that have experienced the leadership of a female Pradhan once, or more than once, as well as those that have never done so.

The quotas have been credited for substantial electoral gains for women, suggesting that the policy has been widely accepted. At the lower levels this was seen for example, in villages with unreserved elections in the 2008 round of voting. Female Pradhan were elected in 13 % of such villages that had experienced a single term of female leadership, and 17 % in those with exposure twice, and even in 10 % of villages with no history of reservation. In general, evidence points to the greatest leap in impact taking place after two rounds, suggesting that it takes time for voters to adjust to quotas and update their mindsets.. After two rounds of reservation, 3.3 % more women chose to run for office in unreserved districts. Further research shows that voter confidence in female Pradhans (and the ability of women to lead in general) grows with exposure to female leadership. The Pradhans themselves, when surveyed, were shown to match the confidence of male counterparts in executing their duties after approximately two years in the position. This is reflected in the willingness of many to rerun for office. While a backlash effect is sometimes seen among male voters, it has been usually eliminated after two rounds of reservation. 

Early studies of the impact of the reservation on participation recorded nominal participation and a lack of influence among women council and Gram Panchayat members, but later studies have documented more substantial impacts. A 2006 report from the World Bank found that in West Bengal, the election of a female Pradhan increased the general involvement of women in sessions.

The popularity of the quotas has extended to the national level where quotas have been credited with easing the path of the divisive Women

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 its lower parliament were women and less than 5% in lower councils, or panchayats.

The…

Continue Reading Share

Policy paper: 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 and cooperator, and the Council’s recognition of its risks, before outlining key limitations…

Continue Reading Share

Legal Study: Reconciling Truth and Gender – Lessons for Sri Lanka

Law & Society Trust Review, 2011

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 of the Tamil National Alliance…

Continue Reading Share

Update: Gender analysis of Sri Lanka’s LLRC published by local and international media, and cited in political report

Groundviews and various, Nov 2011. A renowned Sri Lankan site for independent journalism has published an abridged version of my legal study on the exclusion of Tamil women from the country’s flawed Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in ‘Long Reads’. The section publishes long-form journalism found in publications such as Foreign Policy and the New York Times . This article was later cited and quoted by the Tamil National Alliance, in its critique of the LLRC report  , and featured elsewhere, including the media site of the LLRC itself, and War Crimes Prosecution Watch. The shorter Op-Ed, written for Open Democracy , was carried by various international news sites and blogs, including the site of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).

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….

Continue Reading Share