Irish Penal Reform Trust

Report of the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice

11th June 2019

The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice has published its thematic report on women deprived of liberty for the 41st session of the Human Rights Council.

IPRT made a submission to the Working Group in October 2018 focusing on women deprived of their liberty in the justice system, focusing on: the causes of women coming into conflict with the law in Ireland; the over-representation of Traveller women in prison; the offences for which women are typically charged; challenges to accessing justice for women; and the use of non-custodial measures.

The Report of the UN working Group analyses the causes of deprivation of liberty of women from a gender perspective to provide an understanding of the ways in which women are uniquely and disproportionately affected by deprivation of liberty.

The report contains recommendations to support States in developing and implementing comprehensive measures that are aimed at legal, institutional, social and cultural transformation. Many of the issues outlined in the IPRT submission are reflected in these recommendations. Inter alia, the Working Group recommends:

  • Elimination of measures that tend to disproportionately penalize or detain those living in poverty
  • Initiation of targeted policy measures and programmes to tackle the disproportionate criminalisation and incarceration of racial, indigenous or other marginalised groups
  • Availability of effective gender-specific interventions that aim primarily to divert women away from the criminal justice system, integrate into the national system the standards provided in the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules), and address the underlying factors leading to women coming into contact with the criminal justice system
  • Availability of effective community-based support, services and opportunities for all women, including in rural areas, particularly those related to health, housing, employment, education, childcare and social security, and guarantee the meaningful participation of women in the community;

Read the thematic report of the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice on the Human Rights Council website here.

For more on IPRT’s work on women in detention, visit

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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