United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules) have been approved by the Third Committee of the General Assembly at its 65th session in New York on 15 October, 2010.
The Bangkok Rules are new in the sense that they are the first specific UN standards for the treatment of women offenders. The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR), adopted more than 50 years ago (1955), did not draw sufficient attention to women’s particular needs.
The Bangkok rules will serve as a supplementary for the SMR in relation to women offenders and highlight the issues of:
- Vulnerability of women and their dependant children (best interests of dependant children);
- Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and mothers with children in prison;
- Personal hygiene for women prisoners such as sanitary towels, regular supply of water for the personal care of children and women, in particular women involved in cooking and those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating;
- Medical confidentiality in relation to their reproductive health history and availability of Reproductive health for women prisoners;
- Gender-specific health-care services;
- HIV prevention, treatment, care, support and substance abuse treatment services and programmes;
- Preventive health-care measures such as papanicolaou tests and screening for breast and gynaecological cancer;
- Juvenile female prisoners;
- The gender-sensitive risk assessment and classification of prisoners;
- Foreign nationals;
While the document is imperfect, it reflects years of deliberations and debate. Harm Reduction International hopes that it will become a useful tool for national and regional human rights and penal reform organisations that advocate for better and safer conditions of women in prison settings and for gender sensitive care and diversion schemes for them.