New Publication – Preventing and Addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Places of Deprivation of Liberty

Fresh off their Warsaw printing presses OSCE-ODIHR has published yet another very welcome practical resource, this time on the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence in places of detention.

On 9 August 2019 the inter-governmental organization released the publication, Preventing and Addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Places of Deprivation of Liberty: Standards, Approaches and Examples from the OSCE Region, which – at 170 pages or so in length – tackles this highly topical issue in considerable detail. More importantly, the publication is highly practical and usable too.

As one of the OSCE’s 57 participating States (although this fact is sometimes seemingly forgotten in Canada) the publication has direct relevance in the Canadian context.

The official OSCE-ODIHR description accompanying this new resource reads as follows:

The purpose of this publication is to improve the understanding of sexual and gender-based violence on the part of state actors and civil society, including an understanding of how such violence manifests in places of deprivation of liberty. It also identifies many of the factors that increase the vulnerability of persons deprived of their liberty and aims to contribute to the reduction and eventual elimination of sexual and gender-based violence in places of deprivation of liberty. The publication is primarily intended for policymakers, lawmakers and practitioners from criminal justice systems, including lawyers, prosecutors, judges and anyone else involved in arresting, investigating, interrogating or detaining suspects, those accused of a crime and prisoners or detainees.”

In this respect, the new publication complements very well a number of existing detention related guides currently available to detention monitors, human rights activists and criminal justice practitioners. The APT’s 2018 publication Towards the Effective Protection of LGBTI Persons Deprived of Liberty: A Monitoring Guide springs immediately to mind, which was also featured on this website.

OSCE-ODIHR’s brand-new contribution to the wider literature comprises some seven individual sections, as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Core concepts
  • Background: What do we know about sexual and gender-based violence in places of deprivation of liberty?
  • Risk and needs assessments
  • Reducing risk in specific situations
  • Other measures to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence
  • Conclusion

Three annexes complement the main body of text, highlighting key recommendations drawn from the publication as well as providing a very useful checklist for monitoring visits on sexual and gender-based violence in places of deprivation of liberty.

Solitary confinement
Solitary Confinement by garshna (2013).

The many specific country examples and ECtHR case-law excerpts also very much bring the document alive, adding colour to it and making it highly accessible to the reader. In short, the numerous country examples give the reader much to think about and draw on in their own national contexts.

The publication concludes as follows:

Sexual and gender-based violence in places of deprivation of liberty is preventable and should never be tolerated. This publication has sought to dig deep into this human rights violation and has demonstrated the need to raise awareness of its pervasiveness, enhance research and implement measures for its prevention

The recommendations in this publication serve as guidance for actions to be undertaken to step up OSCE participating States’ monitoring and reporting efforts in relation to SGBV. They should also help them to develop comprehensive methods for upholding human rights by creating appropriate safeguards.

This publication serves as a first step towards more detailed guidance and tools on the topic for practitioners, including both state authorities and non-governmental organizations. ODIHR will continue to raise awareness of this topic, in line with its mandate, and provide support to OSCE participating States willing to eradicate sexual and gender-based violence in places of deprivation of liberty.”

In a word, once again OSCE-ODIHR has made an invaluable contribution to the wider human rights literature on the topic of deprivation of liberty, providing a highly practical guide on what can be done on the ground to counter sexual and gender-based violence in detention.


Download Preventing and Addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Places of Deprivation of Liberty: Standards, Approaches and Examples from the OSCE Region in English.

Explore the APT’s Towards the Effective Protection of LGBTI Persons Deprived of Liberty: A Monitoring Guide.

Read other detention related resources here.

Read an overview of two recent UN publications on women in detention, including in Canada.