In June 2019, the report Women deprived of liberty was released by the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, one of the two special procedures of the Human Rights Council (HRC) comprised of independent human rights experts with mandates to specifically report and advise on women’s human rights. This report is an essential analysis to understand the underlying causes of deprivation of liberty of women, from a gender perspective, documenting the ways women are uniquely and disproportionately affected by deprivation of liberty, owing to structural discrimination throughout their life cycle.
The report addresses the root cause of deprivation of liberty in detention facilities, as well as other public and private institutions; in private homes and community spaces; and in situations of conflict and crisis. It highlights the ways that patriarchal social and family structures shape gender stereotypes that may lead to, and justify, women’s confinement: stereotypes related to women’s roles in the home and in public; stereotypes related to women’s “moral” or sexual behavior; and stereotypes that portray women as weak or in need of protection. Accordingly, deprivation of liberty is deeply gendered, as it is frequently tied to causes rooted in discrimination against women, and also inextricably linked to poverty, violence, and conflict. Through its analysis, the Working Group underlines intersectional forms of discrimination targeted against women, including women with disabilities; indigenous, migrant, or older women; as well as women from racial, ethnic, sexual, or gender minorities; and other marginalized identities. The report makes it clear that women with these identities face additional layers of harmful and debilitating stereotypes, and increased levels of exposure to violence, conflict, and economic “unfreedom.”
As feminist activists, we recognize the work of the WGDAW, which has been critical to advancing women’s human rights. As acknowledged by AWID during the 41st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2019, the WGDAW has been a resolute and essential voice in this time of backlash. The mandate has been able to support activists and other stakeholders working to protect the rights of women and hold States accountable to do more to eliminate discrimination, in law, policy and practice, by making specific recommendations for State action in numerous areas including political and public life, the economic sphere, with regard to women’s health, and within the family as well as in cultural life. Since 2012, the WGDAW has presented thematic reports to the Human Rights Council on all of these themes and, in 2016, the mandate published a report on promising practices by States which includes an instructive framework for measuring promising practices, that can be applied more broadly in the legal and policy arena to measure progress and impact.
WGDAW’s annual thematic reports:
Women deprived of liberty (2019)