Country studies reveal continued concerns for the human rights of women in detention

DIGNITY scrutinizes the conditions of women in detention in newly published field studies of four countries around the world. The studies point to various key issues such as lack of special consideration to gender specific health care, sexual exploitation, and the importance of ties to the outside world.

The conditions of women in detention have been of high priority to DIGNITY through several years.  In June 2014, DIGNITY presented the study Conditions for Women in Detention – Needs, vulnerabilities and good practices in connection with the UN Human Rights Council session. Now, four country studies related to this main study have been published. In some cases they show disregard for the gender-specific needs of female prisoners and reveal patterns of inhuman and degrading treatment. The studies also capture positive developments in the prison regime for women. Finally, all studies deliver recommendations for States on how to improve and strengthen the conditions of detention and the laws and policies governing them.

A short summary of the four studies is presented below.

Commendable practices, but still room for improvement in Albania
The conditions of women in Albanian prisons have improved a great deal over the past years. In 2014, the country showed political will to heighten the standards, and made gender-sensitive amendments to the prison law. At DIGNITY’s visit to the country’s only prison facility for women, good practices were revealed.  Both in terms of a supportive, gender-sensitive staff, preventive health care and education, and staff supported outreach to the families of inmates. However, there are still challenges. Lack of space, inadequate hygiene facilities, and run-down living quarters are of great concern. The excessive use of pre-trial detention for low-risk offenders was also found to be a cause of great concern. The pre-trial detention can last for months, if not years.

Read the study on women in Albanian detention facilities here

Social norms and discrimination of women reach deep into the penal system of Jordan
Detained women in Jordan experience isolation from the outside world, stigmatization by their own communities and a lack of contact to family members and children. Some of the women have experienced gender-based violence before entering prison, but have not received the rehabilitation needed to recover.
The most serious violations reported during this study were the inhuman and degrading treatment of female inmates by prison officers, particularly during admissions processes, and lack of intervention in cases of violence between inmates at the Juweida Women’s Correctional and Rehabilitation, which included cases of threats, sexual molestation, beating and burnings.

Read the study of women in Jordanian detention facilities here

Vast and fragmented penal system puts women at risk in the Philippines
Due to the lack of centralized data, varying operating procedures, standards, levels of professionalism and training in the penal system of the Philippines, the overall situation for detainees is a challenge to assess and regulate consistently. For instance, great differences were found between the conditions of smaller, provincial facilities and larger women-only prisons. In the provincial facilities women are reportedly detained with little attention to their human rights and particular needs, and not held separately from men. In women-only facilities, attention to the welfare of the inmates and good practices were found. Speaking to female detainees, it became clear that ties to the outside world, especially to children and lawyers, are of critical importance. There was found to be an acute need for gender-sensitive health care, particularly in areas of reproductive and sexual health, and for survivors of gender-based violence, and substance abusers. Women have also spoken to DIGNITY of gendered risks and dangers that they face while in detention, including sexual exploitation.

Read the study of women in Filipino detention facilities here

Continued violations of several human rights of women in Zambian prisons
Two prisons were visited in Zambia. During the visits DIGNITY found broad, acute and harmful lacks to the consideration of the needs of women in detention. There was found a lack of basic hygiene facilities and gender-specific health care. This poses a particular risk to pregnant inmates, or inmates with HIV. The women were in many cases excluded from families and children, from whom they therefore could not receive help and support. There were found improvements, as cases of torture and corporal punishment have decreased over the past years. However, degrading treatment continues in the form of verbal abuse, excessive disciplinary confinement, degrading tasks, and humiliating search procedures, which involves forced nudity in front of cell mates and cavity searches performed by female staff with no adequate training. 

Read the study on women in Zambian detention facilities here.