Women in prison
In December 2010, the UN General Assembly approved new standards or the treatment of women prisoners and non-custodial measures for women offenders, known as the “Bangkok Rules”. This follows years of careful work by QUNO, Friends World Committee for Consultation representatives to the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Quaker Peace & Social Witness of Britain Yearly Meeting (QPSW) and the Quaker Council on European Affairs (QCEA), to highlight the specific problems faced by women in prison and pre-trial detention. QUNO also worked with the World Health Organisation European Office's Health in Prisons Project to develop a background paper and declaration on Women's Health in Prison (published jointly in 2009 by WHO Europe and UNODC).
Some of the specific problems for women offenders/prisoners include:
the over-incarceration of women, particularly for minor offences carrying mandatory prison sentences,
- the adverse impact of imprisonment on the children of imprisoned mothers, both if they reside in prison with their mothers and if they are separated from them.
inappropriate accommodation and sanitary facilities
- lack of appropriate staffing.
lack of female prison staff or staff with appropriate knowledge and skills to work with women
- lack of education and work programmes
- high proportion of women prisoners with a history of mental, physical or sexual abuse.
- disproportionate representation of indigenous women, foreign nationals and women from minority groups in women's prisons.
- undertaken preliminary research, including by sending questionnaires (jointly with QCEA) to all UN Member States, to gain a better understanding of women's imprisonment worldwide;
- published a series of reports that introduce the issues, analyse and comment on international standards and review progress in the UN human rights system so far;
- contacted many organisations, associations and individuals working with and for women in prison and their children;
- made submissions to the UN bodies that oversee the implementation of the core human rights treaties, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and to other parts of the UN human rights system.