BANGKOK RULES ON WOMEN OFFENDERS: Challenge lies in implementation

Summary: A side event organised by Penal Reform International addressed the issue of female offenders.

On 6 March, Penal Reform International organised a side-event: "Female Offenders - What difference can the Bangkok Rules make?". The event's objective was to promote the "UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules)".

Rules provide protection for women

Dr. Rani D. Shakardass, Director of the Indian NGO PRAJA, said the Bangkok Rules are very important because without them, women would have no form of protection. She was sceptical, however, about the 'checklist' of rules, as it neglects the individual needs of women. She also reminded everyone that the Bangkok Rules are also about non-custodial measures.

First to address children of imprisoned women

Tomris Atabay, of Penal Reform International, said the Bangkok Rules are very important and the first instrument that addresses children of women in prison. She said the biggest challenge was to ensure that they are put into practise. By this, she meant the incorporation of rules into national legislation, and also prison legislation. Other challenges included the lack of awareness and knowledge of the Rules, the entrenched attitudes towards women who offend (deriving from gender-based stereotyping), and also available resources to implement the Rules.

New Guidelines

An announcement was made about the impending launch of a new set of guidelines on the Bangkok Rules. The purpose of the guidelines is to raise awareness of the Rules and provide practical and detailed guidance to all parties (including NGOs), to ensure that enough information is available to implement the Bangkok Rules.