The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee is currently drafting a General Recommendation that will give guidance to states on measures they can adopt to address barriers women face in accessing justice.
Penal Reform International (PRI) welcomed the CEDAW Committee’s broad approach to ‘access to justice’ but criticised the fact the Committee’s did not meaningfully acknowledge women as defendants or the fact that many women are in prison as a direct or indirect result of multiple layers of discrimination and deprivation. PRI claimed this omission mirrors the international community’s general lack of awareness of, and commitment to, the implementation of the UN Bangkok Rules which were adopted in 2011 to rectify the lack of standards. PRI stated that “this discussion was a stark reminder of the fact that women are far more popular if they confirm with gender stereotypes, and are labeled as victims of the justice system”.
PRI noted their concern that measures to address violence against women were the only context in which women’s barriers to justice were discussed by the Committee. The specific requirements of women prisoners in male-orientated prison systems and regimes remained unacknowledged and unaddressed. These requirements can include caretaking responsibilities, histories of domestic violence, family contact, and gender-appropriate rehabilitation.