The Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have just launched the Toolkit on Gender Responsive Non-Custodial Measures with an aimed at providing guidance to judges and prosecutors as well as other professionals working with women in the criminal justice system, such as defence lawyers, probation officers, health professionals and civil society organizations.
Women are the fastest growing prison population across the world. As further outlined in this toolkit, poverty, discrimination, violence and a punitive legal responses are some of the key underlying causes behind the increase in female imprisonment. The harmful and negative impact of imprisonment on women, their families and communities has been widely documented.
This toolkit provides ways to ensure that women in contact with the law are not detained or imprisoned unnecessarily and that detention is used as a measure of last resort, using a gender-sensitive application of criminal laws, policies and procedures. Recognising the importance of multi-stakeholder engagement, this toolkit is aimed at providing guidance to judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers, probation officers, health professionals, media and civil society organisations on methods to enhance the impact of gender responsive non-custodial measures.
This toolkit is designed to build on existing international instruments and resources, as well as regional and international best practices, in order to provide guidance on applying noncustodial measures to women in contact with the law as well as on gender-sensitive application of criminal laws, policies and procedures.
The toolkit has been developed following an expert group meeting in Bangkok, Thailand from 2-4 September 2019 which brought together more than 30 experts from around the world to provide technical expertise on the publication.
The toolkit is divided into the following components:
- The Introduction sets out the rationale, purpose and scope of the toolkit and defines key concepts.
- Part 1 identifies the particular needs of women in contact with the law and explains the main driving factors behind women’s imprisonment. It considers the harmful impacts of imprisonment on women and why non-custodial measures as alternatives to pretrial detention and imprisonment are important and should be prioritized. It also suggests general measures to be taken to ensure a more gender-sensitive approach by the criminal justice system in order to adopt specific responses to the particular needs of women.
- Part 2 covers non-custodial measures for women in contact with the law. It gives an overview of international and regional standards and then provides suggested guidance on implementing non-custodial measures and examples of best practice at various stages of the criminal justice system: pretrial, the trial and sentencing stage and the post-sentencing stage.
- Part 3 covers special categories of women where additional considerations should be taken into account to ensure gender-sensitive application of criminal laws, procedures and practices as well as implementation of non-custodial measures. These include women who are survivors of gender-based violence, foreign national women who may be survivors of trafficking and exploitation, and women arrested for drug offences.
How to use this toolkit
This toolkit can be used as a reference resource by reading the publication in its entirety or specific sections.
The toolkit is also designed for use in trainings and capacity-building initiatives of relevant officials.
The toolkit acknowledges that each country will have different starting points and challenges. The case studies list best practice examples. The self-assessment exercises are designed to reflect on the gaps in one’s country and to put forward recommendations to policymakers and leaders within the justice sector. The toolkit also makes suggestions on adopting a gender-responsive approach which can be incorporated within existing frameworks.