The under-representation of women in justice system institutions and its impact on justice system outcomes were the focus of a Women’s Power Breakfast in Warsaw on 19 September 2018, during the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting.
The event was co-organised by Penal Reform International, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to promote women’s equal representation among staff of justice institutions and to advocate for gender-sensitive justice systems.
‘The question of the extent to which women are represented among the police, prosecutors, judges and prison staff is not just one of numbers,’ said Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, ODIHR Director. ‘It has an impact on how women are treated in the justice system, whether they are victims, suspects, defendants, witnesses or prisoners. What’s more, it can have a bearing on the outcome of procedures.’
Participants elaborated on how the under-representation of women in justice system institutions, as is the case in many countries, has a negative impact on numerous aspects of justice proceedings and contributes to gender discrimination. The experiences of female victims of gender-based violence in a predominantly male justice and penitentiary system were highlighted by many participants in the discussion.
‘Given the sensitive nature of gender-based violence and the fear of stigmatisation, female victims may be more comfortable telling their stories to female police officers,’ said Jypara Rakisheva, UNODC National Co-ordinator in Central Asia, who shared lessons learned from UNODC’s work with the Interior Ministry of Kyrgyzstan. ‘Gender-sensitive policing includes policies to increase the representation of women in the police, enhancing policing skills of female officers and collecting sex-disaggregated data.’
Azamat Shambilov, Regional Director of PRI’s Central Asia Office, noted that prison systems are usually male-dominated, and female staff frequently face harassment and barriers to promotion to managerial posts.
‘International standards require that female prisoners are supervised by female staff. This is essential to achieving gender-sensitive treatment of female detainees, including the prevention of gender-based violence in prisons,’ he said.
The event saw the presentation by ODIHR of a discussion paper examining gender and diversity among justice system actors in terms of recruitment and workplace equality, as well as in terms of the fairness of outcomes, as perceived by end users of the justice system. The paper is part of ODIHR’s work to support participating States in implementing OSCE commitments relating to the rule of law and the comprehensive gender mainstreaming strategy of the organisation.
This article was originally published on ODIHR’s website.
Photo: Left to right: Azamat Shambilov, Regional Director for Central Asia at Penal Reform International (PRI); Nadia Stefaniv, Justice at the Supreme Court of Ukraine; Andrea Huber, Deputy Chief of the Rule of Law Unit at the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR); and Jypara Rakisheva, National Co-ordinator of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Programme in Central Asia. Warsaw, 19 September 2018. (OSCE/Maria Kuchma)