The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the Gendered Experience of Imprisonment
Citation:Ciara O'Connell and Mary Rogan, The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the Gendered Experience of Imprisonment, Gender in Law and Courts: Uneasy Encounters?, European University Institute, 8 November 2019, 2019
O'Connell_Presentation_EUI.pptx (Pre-print (author's copy) - Non-Peer Reviewed) 669.7Kb
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) is a supranational human rights monitoring body tasked with carrying out visits to places of detention across Europe. The CPT is unique in its activities as a monitoring body not only because its delegates conduct unscheduled visits to places such as prisons, psychiatric hospitals, immigration detention facilities, psychiatric facilities and social care homes, but also because it works with states to prevent treatment and conditions that may lead to human rights violations. Unlike other human rights treaty monitoring bodies, the CPT does not process individual complaints against states, nor is it a judicial monitoring body. In fact, one of the founding principles of the CPT is that of co-operation with national authorities, with the aim of CPT monitoring activities being to protect persons deprived of their liberty rather than to condemn states for violating human rights. The CPT operates alongside the European Court of Human Rights to examine treatment and conditions in line with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Prisons fall within the remit of the CPT’s visiting activities, and are the subject of much CPT exploration, standard-setting and state-dialogue. Much like prisons themselves, visits to prisons carried out by the CPT are focused on the male experience of imprisonment. However, the experience of imprisonment is inherently gendered and, as such, women and non-binary people in prison require different treatment to that of men. Therefore, it follows that a different approach is similarly required when it comes to prison monitoring activities carried out by the CPT. This paper introduces the CPT’s standards on gender and imprisonment, as they relate to and are positioned within the international framework. The paper then reflects on nearly two years of CPT visit reporting to determine how, and to what extent, the CPT considers the gendered experience of imprisonment. To this end, the paper considers the gender composition of the CPT delegation over the designated time period to determine if indeed the gender composition of CPT delegations has any significant impact on the adoption of a ‘gender focus’ in CPT reports. Further to that level of analysis, the paper provides an in-depth content analysis of CPT reports made public following visits to prisons between January 2016 and September 2018. The analysis reveals areas where the CPT accounts for, and also fails to account for, gender-specific treatment and conditions in prison. By exploring how and when the CPT considers the experience of imprisonment for women and non-binary people in prison, this paper identifies and critiques instances where, for example, the CPT essentializes women or fails to explore the intersectional dimensions of imprisonment. The objective of analysing CPT reports using a gender perspective is to pose questions around how the CPT can better institutionalize a gendered understanding of treatment and conditions in prisons.
European Research Council (ERC)
European University Institute
Author: O'Connell, Ciara
Other Titles:Gender in Law and Courts: Uneasy Encounters?
Availability:Full text available