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Places of Deprivation of Liberty and Gender – New Publication

The newly published title Places of Deprivation of Liberty and Gender will undoubtedly be of significant interest to human rights actors focusing on the situation of women in Canada’s different closed institutions. Authored by Omar Phoenix Khan and jointly published by the DCAF Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance, OSCE-ODIHR and UN Women on 18 December 2019, the publication arrives as one of the latest installments in the so-called Gender and Security Toolkit.

This highly welcome resource is featured among a series of Tools and Policy Briefs issued by the said international organizations on a diversity of human rights topics, including policing and gender, justice and gender, and security sector governance, sector reform and gender.

Canadian human rights actors and detention monitors working on issues relating to the deprivation of liberty will unquestionably find the new tool both absorbing and useful. According to the introductory overview of the publication, the intended purpose of Places of Deprivation of Liberty and Gender is as follows:

“This Tool is designed to be used by all actors working in connection with people who have been deprived of their liberty. These include policy-makers, legislators, institutional managers, front-line staff, members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others.

The main focus of the Tool is related to deprivation of liberty within criminal justice facilities, although much of the content presented here may also be relevant to deprivation of liberty in other settings, such as administrative detention, military detention centres, immigration centres and refugee camps.”

As highlighted in its opening section, the publication sets out to achieve the following objectives:

  • It outlines why integrating a gender perspective is important in closed institutions;
  • It provides a vision of what such facilities would look like if they successfully integrated a gender perspective into their policies and practices;
  • Real-life examples are offered of specific steps that have been taken to integrate such a gender perspective into places of deprivation of liberty;
  • In this same connection, practical guidance is offered to different engaged actors, including policy-makers, operational staff and civil society representatives.

For this writer, chapter 4 titled ‘Guidance for advancing gender equality within places of deprivation of liberty’ is especially illuminating, as it is replete with everyday examples of good gender-related detention practices, drawn from an array of national jurisdictions.

Moreover, the chapter’s focus on an issue close to the heart of the Canada OPCAT Project – independent oversight and monitoring – is especially welcome. In this same connection the report states:

“Organizations that provide independent scrutiny of conditions within places of deprivation of liberty and the treatment of people held therein are a vital cornerstone of any system hoping to ensure sustainable and equitable humane treatment of all such people.”

This undeniable reality is exceedingly well put by author Omar Phoenix Khan.

Solitary confinement
Cell Number 5 by Allissa Richardson (2011).

Other themes of distinct interest include the following: the need for internal oversight and data collection (as highlighted previously on this website); staff selection and ongoing training; infrastructure and accommodation; non-threatening intake and admission of detainees; transfers and searches; risk and needs assessment; healthcare; as well as visits and access to the wider community, among others.

The institutional self-assessment checklist included in chapter 5 of the tool offers an additionally practical benchmark for measuring success in integrating a gender perspective across these and others themes.  

All told, Places of Deprivation of Liberty and Gender very well complements various other useful resources currently available on gender in closed detention settings (for other materials please see under Other Resources) and consequently deserves a much closer look.


Explore Places of Deprivation of Liberty and Gender and the Gender and Security Toolkit.

Read Preventing and Addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Places of Deprivation of Liberty.

See Guide to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of women prisoners: Implementation of the Bangkok Rules.

Posted by mp in Tools, Violence Against Women, Women prisoners