Exhibition: “Inspiring Women’s Human Rights in Prison”

H.R.H. Princess Bajrakitiyabha of Thailand on 14 September opened the exhibition “Inspiring Women’s Rights in Prison”, co-hosted by the Government of Thailand, on the sidelines of the 12th session of the Human Rights Council. The exhibition, comprised of paintings and information panels, is dedicated to women in detention all over the world and will remain open to the public for the duration of the current Human Rights Council session.

Navi Pillay addressing the crowd present for the opening of the exhibition at Palais des Nations © UN Photo/Gilles SereniIn her opening remarks the Princess said that “all persons deprived of liberty should be treated with humanity and dignity.” She added that “women prisoners have specific needs that may no longer be adequately addressed by the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. It is high time to recognize their human rights and gender sensitivity.”

Thailand has been spearheading an initiative at the UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to develop new supplementary rules for the treatment of women in detention, as well as safeguard the rights and interests of their children.

Along side Princess Bajrakitiyabha were the President of the Human Rights Council, Alex van Meeuwen, the High Commissioner for human Rights, Navi Pillay and the Chairman of the Cultural Activities Committee of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Pierre le Loarer.

The High Commissioner stressed that new UN rules for the treatment of prisoners would take into account the specific needs of women prisoners, pregnant women in detention and women in detention with young children. She said that the “draft rules aim to ensure that women in detention are treated with respect and dignity, are not subject to overcrowded conditions, are protected against sexual abuse, and receive adequate health care for themselves, and for their young children who they may be nursing or otherwise caring for in prison.” She added that the new rules would equally encourage the creation of avenues to enable women offenders’ re-insertion in society and their participation in their own economic development.

Princess Bajrakitiyabha, who is also Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), has been instrumental in spurring the development of the new rules. Working as a public prosecutor in Thailand, she has launched a groundbreaking rehabilitation and support project for female detainees.

The new draft rules were the subject of a side event to the Council session which was also opened by Princess Bajrakitiyabha and where experts discussed the potential value of these new rules. They will further be considered by a working group in November before being presented to the next UN Crime Congress in 2010.

The Human Rights Council is currently in its 12th session at Palais des Nations in Geneva until 2 October. 

18 September 2009