Arab NGO Network for Development
Monthly Newsletter

August   2015

Advancing Human Rights in Women’s Prisons in Lebanon

 

Manar Zaiter - The Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering - Lebanon

 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King Jr.

 

The nature of detention undergoes big changes in a number of aspects in various countries of the world. The number of prisoners has increased significantly, while repressive criminal policies continue and even get worse. The result is overcrowded prisons and accompanying deterioration in the health of prisoners, limited opportunities for rehabilitation and the acquisition of skills, and the denial of basic human rights.

 

These developments were accompanied by an increase in the number of women prisoners of various nationalities as a result of several factors, most notably displacement and immigration, problems in the judicial process, the slow evolution of the concept of criminal justice, changes in the types and severities of crimes, and the impact this has on sanctions.

 

In a society where women still suffer the worst abuses, a lack of the most basic human rights, and an exposure to gender-based violence and discrimination, it is natural that women prisoners become the most marginalized and vulnerable category by virtue of their perceived inferiority and social stigma. This requires real efforts and a will to protect them and improve their conditions through the development of strategies integrating the interests, experiences and needs of men and women alike in designing, implementing, monitoring and assessing policies and programs in all areas.

 

In reviewing the reality of women prisoners in Lebanon, it is necessary to reflect on the following facts:

 

- The weak integration of women’s needs in plans and policies,

 

- The lack of data classified according to sex, and the weak belief in expected results from gender integration.

 

- The weakness of work in women’s prisons in accordance with general approaches to rights in general and to women’s rights in particular,

 

- Growing problems in prisons, the predominance of security concerns over other considerations, and an overlap among the problems of prison conditions with those associated with litigation and trial period,

 

- The weakness of resourcing in regards to the conditions of women’s prisons in the light of the conditions of men’s prisons and overlapping political, security and human rights factors,

 

These factors must be mitigated in order to:

 

- Acknowledge the specific problems of women prisoners and recognize the need to provide means to solve these problems,

 

- Provide programs and services that allow for the rehabilitation of women prisoners for the “post-prison” period,

 

- Recognize that gender-based violence creates specific effects on women’s ability to communicate with the criminal justice system and their right to not be subjected to abuse in prisons, where physical and psychological integrity is needed to ensure a protection of human rights and improved outcomes for women offenders,

 

In Lebanon, Decree No. 14130 of February 11, 1949 organizes prisons and places of detention. However, it is inadequate vis-à-vis international texts related to the treatment of prisoners, especially the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1977), the UN Standard Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures (Tokyo Rules) (1990), the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules) (2010) and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules) (1985).

 

A look at the conditions of women’s prisons in Lebanon shows a problem at the level of legislation, which fails to comply with international standards or take into account the needs of women. There is also a problem in terms of practices, which undoubtedly need codification and development. Key recommendations are:

 

• Taking into account the special needs of women, including:

 

a) The right to health in terms of undergoing a comprehensive health examination when taken into prison, as well as attention to the sexual, reproductive and preventive health of women prisoners.

 

b) The right to food in terms of providing and improving the quality of food and the amount of food to take into account women prisoners who are pregnant and lactating and women with special needs.

 

c) The right to personal hygiene in terms of provision of basic supplies for women prisoners, including sanitary napkins, towels, clothing and other supplies.

 

d) The right to rehabilitation and reintegration in terms of educational and vocational programs and recreational activities for the development of women prisoners.

 

e) The right of women prisoners to communicate with members of their families, particularly their children.

 

f) Providing legal assistance to reduce arrest and detention problems

 

g) The right to secure legal and psychological protection for foreign women prisoners.

 

h) The development of prison administrations and the training of guards, nurses and doctors working in women’s prisons on human rights and gender approaches.

 

• The strict application of the International Convention against Torture.

 

• The state’s fulfillment of its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women

 

• On the level of the Criminal Procedure Law, enforcement requires separation of women prisoners and stopping arbitrary detention.

 

• On the level of authorities and workers in the prisons, it is important for gender awareness to be a requirement in recruitment for various positions. Financial resources should be allocated in the government’s budget on a regular basis for training staff/employees on human and gender rights. Impunity regarding outlaw practices (torture, bribery, discrimination, violence, etc…) should be ended.

 

• Lebanon should establish a “national prevention mechanism” to contribute to the prevention of torture through inspections of places of detention. Lebanon committed itself to this under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture

 

• The adoption of policies and measures to protect the most vulnerable women, especially refugees and migrant workers and including perpetrators of certain types of crimes (prostitution).

 

• The adoption of the National Plan for Human Rights endorsed by the Lebanese Parliament.

 

• The adoption of policies and strategies to empower women and alleviate social challenges against them.

 

(This paper on women’s prisons in Lebanon was part of a report that can be found on the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering’s site, www.rdflwomen.org)

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