Women and children

Women and children


Female offenders characteristics and needs are different from those of imprisoned men.

About 6.5% of the world’s prisoners are women (and girls), constituting between 2 and 9 per cent of national prison populations. According to recent analysis by the International Centre for Prison Studies, the number of women in prison has increased by 50%, between 2000 and 2015.

The characteristics and needs of women are usually very different from those of men in prison. A considerable proportion of women offenders are in prison as a direct or indirect result of multiple layers of discrimination and poverty. Most of them are mothers, often sole or primary caretakers, or lead a single-headed household.

Typical offences committed by females are petty crimes closely linked to poverty, such as theft, fraud and minor drug related offences. Only a minority of women are convicted of violent offences. A disproportionate number of women offenders have experienced violence in their lives, including sexual abuse, and this cycle of violence often continues in prison and after release. Linked to this violence are the high rates of mental health illness, substance dependency and self-harm and suicide among women inmates.

It is also estimated that millions of children worldwide have a parent in prison and tens of thousands are living in prison with their mother.

The UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules) respond to the different needs of women and girls in prisons, providing guidance on a wide range of aspects of the prison regime – healthcare, rehabilitation programmes, the training of prison staff and visiting rights.

Our service in regard to this matter includes new policy development as well as consulting and support towards the implementation of the Bangkok Rules in order to address the specific gender characteristics and needs of female offenders.