The Deputy Representative of UN Women in Liberia, Sangeeta Rana Thapa, has committed her institution’s support to the government in efforts to promote a culture of respect for the rule of Law.
Mrs. Thapa said the organization is ready to provide a comprehensive package of support to the government for giving a voice to women from different backgrounds and in different situations.
Thapa spoke in Monrovia recently at the opening of a one-week gender responsive training for prison guards in the 15 counties. The program was organized by the UN Women offices in Monrovia.
“Although women and girls constitute a minority of national prisoners in the country, their numbers are rising,” Mrs. Thapa said.
She said most prisons have been designed for men, but the authorities have failed to meet the basic needs of female prisoners, including protecting them from reported sexual violence.
According to her, when a woman is released from prison, the person is most times stigmatized, victimized or abandoned by their families.
She said that discriminatory criminal policies and laws related to adultery, prostitution, abortion, witchcraft or “protective custody” can have a particularly detrimental impact on women.
“I am giving this background not to compromise the justice system, but to raise awareness of prison guards, which the training aims to achieve,” Mrs. Thapa said.
She added that the training will also ensure that women in prison are treated with the care they deserve, which is one of the key tenets upon which the rule of law rests, ensuring the justice system is transparent and non-discriminatory.
Women in Liberian prisons, as in other countries, are even more affected and have a disproportionately higher level of mental health, suicide, self-harm, drug dependence and other health needs compared to men in prison, she said.
Mrs. Thapa said the gender training program for prison guards falls under the Women Access to Justice Flagship program that is aligned with the UN Women Strategic Plan (SP) 1, which is Women Political Environment.
Mrs. Thapa, however, informed the gathering that the training is being organized for prison officials in all 15 counties, covering topics from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) to Psycho-social Counseling during Pre-trial Detention.
“It is my hope that this effort will help make the justice system responsive to women’s needs while in prison as the issue of pre-trial detention is being highly considered,” she said.
Meanwhile, Assistant Justice Minister for Correction and Rehabilitation, Eddie Tarawali, disclosed that plans are being crafted by his team to work in line with the laws of Liberia, to ensure that the condition of correctional officers are improved.