As in many other parts of the world, women in South Asia are discriminated against, and often disproportionately damaged by their experience in the criminal justice system.
Women often struggle to access justice. Following her mission to Bangladesh (2013), the Special Rapporteur for Violence against Women reported that women prisoners faced serious challenges in the application of due process standards. They also face greater stigma than men, with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reporting in 2012 that many families of women prisoners no longer cared for them or stayed in contact.
Women frequently experience violence in custody. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has said that sexual harassment and sexual violence of women by jail wardens is common. Sexual violence by police against women in custody has been reported in both Bangladesh and India. In Pakistan, women are not always separated from men leaving them vulnerable to sexual assault by other prisoners.
What we do
We are working to improve the treatment of women and girls in the criminal justice and penal systems in South Asia, with a focus on promoting the implementation of the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules).
Together with our local NGO partners, and probation and prison officials, we work to increase awareness, understanding of and compliance with the Bangkok Rules, through advocacy, training and the development of tools and guidance.
- We advocate for the implementation of the Bangkok Rules, with a focus on working with prison administrations and staff to improve awareness of the specific needs of women prisoners.
- We support local civil society partners to promote the Bangkok Rules and gender-sensitive prison regimes.
- We provide guidance, tools and information on the Bangkok Rules.