Rights and Development

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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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Op-Ed: Dynamic security – political change bad news for the women in Albania’s prisons

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 regime are let go or redistributed, this can mean a lot of good progress going to waste.”
Wedged tightly among the low-rise flats of Albania’s capital, Tirana, the Ali Demi medium-security women

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 regime are let go or redistributed, this can mean a lot of good progress going to waste.”
Wedged tightly among the low-rise…

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Building alliances: Indigenous women leaders unite against development-based violence

UN Women, 23 November 2012

The sound of helicopters still makes Soi Tonnampet shake, years later. It takes her back to the first time she and others from her indigenous community, the Karen, fled from an operation to clear areas of national parkland in Northern Thailand. She recalls that during their first three-day escape through the forest – one of many – an elderly woman died and another woman miscarried.


Indigenous women shared their concerns about development-induced violence,
and the strategies they have used to address it during the four-day meeting.
Photo credit: UN Women/Jo Baker

 

For Lori Beyer, who is helping indigenous women contend with mining operations in the Philippines, gender-based violence has a different face. “Many of the male campaigners have to go into hiding,” she says. “It makes the women more vulnerable to sexual harassment, intimidation and sometimes worse.”

Although they come from villages far apart, indigenous women’s network members from across Southeast Asia found shared ground during a recent consultation on violence against indigenous women, which focused on forms of violence that are worsened or caused by economic development projects.

 



Soi Tonnampet and Kruemebuh Chaya, both members of the Karen tribe from Keng Kra Chan, Thailand, share their experiences of violence and displacement with the group during a story-telling session. Photo credit: UN Women/Jo Baker.



 

Organized by the Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact and supported by UN Women, the meeting is part of work to connect indigenous women with each other, rights experts, and the skills they need, to define and respond to pressing issues. As decisions on the sustainable development framework are made, and countries – particularly ASEAN members – open up economically, the need to battle their invisibility and lack of public voice has become increasingly important.

“The impact of the violence on indigenous women that comes with militarization of indigenous territories, with the destruction of our natural resources and with the consequence of displacement, affects them not just as individuals but as a collective – through the social-cultural dimension of their identity and dignity,” says Joan Carling, AIPP Secretary General. “If  are not participating in any decision-making where it concerns them, then this issue is not being addressed”.

Although often found in areas of natural wealth, indigenous groups make up 5% of the world’s population, but 15% of the poorest worldwide, according to the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Many contend with extensive damage, marginalization and human rights violations as a result of aggressive development processes.

For women, these harms can take on different forms. The influx of non-indigenous workers and security personnel into indigenous areas has seen prostitution increase, for example, along with sexual harassment and rape. As indigenous livelihoods are altered or destroyed, levels of gender-based violence often rise, and economic, social and cultural harms can affect women differently as their burdens shift or increase. Yet with lower levels of education, and held back by multiple layers of discrimination, indigenous women can struggle to highlight their concerns and lead change.

 
Despite language and cultural barriers the women found solidarity –
and lighter moments – during the consultation.
Photo credit: Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

 

 

Nevertheless, with support, women leaders are emerging as effective advocates.  The Chiang Mai consultation connected twenty-nine indigenous women from eight countries in Southeast Asia  with regional and international human rights experts, women’s rights and indigenous peoples rights advocates – including representatives from the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, and the UN’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP).  “At this workshop I can hear other country’s cases, and how they have overcome  so that I learn from them,” says Seng Mai, who has been helping indigenous and rural people to respond to development projects in Myanmar, through the Kachin Development Networking Group. “And I can hear about international law, such as customary law and CEDAW.”

Participants also shared positive progress – whether cases pushed into and through their criminal justice process, interventions triggered from the UN Human Rights Council, or in the case of the Philippines recently, a military court martial successfully campaigned for, for soldiers suspected of extrajudicial killing.

Other network members, with support from UN Women and others, spoke of meeting with decision-makers on international platforms like the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), or the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 (Rio+20).  Many spoke of placing force behind their lobbying using the women’s and collective rights frameworks, found in international instruments such as the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples  and CEDAW, known as the Women’s Convention.


Indigenous women from three areas of Indonesia meet with women from
Thailand’s Akha hill tribe, during the participants’ trip to a tribal village in
Chiang Mai. Photo credit: UN Women/Jo Baker

 

At the conclusion of the meeting, participants agreed on an action plan - a series of research, advocacy and capacity building steps for the coming year. For women like Soi, Lori and Seng Mai, the solidarity and the strategizing are a source of knowledge, but also critical encouragement and moral support.

This is a chance for me to bring this information to my country, my village and the women there,” explains Seng Mai.

UN Women, 23 November 2012

The sound of helicopters still makes Soi Tonnampet shake, years later. It takes her back to the first time she and others from her indigenous community, the Karen, fled from an operation to clear areas of national parkland in Northern Thailand. She recalls that during their first three-day escape through the forest – one of many – an elderly woman died and another woman miscarried.

Indigenous women shared their concerns about development-induced violence,
and the strategies they have used to address it during the four-day meeting.
Photo credit: UN Women/Jo Baker

 

For Lori Beyer, who is helping indigenous women contend with mining operations in the Philippines, gender-based violence has a different face. “Many of the male campaigners have to go into hiding,” she says. “It makes the women more vulnerable to sexual harassment, intimidation and sometimes worse.”

Although they come from villages far apart, indigenous women’s network members…

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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…

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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…

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