University Module Series Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice: Gender in the Criminal Justice System

Module Resource for Lecturers

Authored by: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Categories: Human Rights, Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Access to Justice and Rule of Law, International Law
Year: 2019
Citation: “E4J University Module Series: Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice: Gender in the Criminal Justice System.” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, July 2019.

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Executive Summary

Developed under UNODC’s Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, a component of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, this Module forms part of the E4J University Module Series on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and is accompanied by a Teaching Guide.  All E4J university modules provide suggestions for in-class exercises, student assessments, slides, and other teaching tools that lecturers can adapt to their contexts, and integrate into existing university courses and programmes. The Module provides an outline for a three-hour class, but can be used for shorter or longer sessions.

The terms used here by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) are plain. On the basis of their gender, women face disproportionate hardship in gaining access to justice. Appearing in 2015, as the consolidated views of United Nations Member States, this assessment of women’s differential access to justice, builds on analysis that has long characterized feminist legal scholarship globally. For decades, scholars, legal practitioners, and individuals who interact with criminal justice systems have reported that policing, legal, judicial, and penal systems cater more effectively to the needs of men. While significant differences in legal systems, globally, prevent generalizations about the extent to which law is gendered, feminist legal scholars from all over the world contend that women and girls are adversely impacted by gendered assumptions and omissions in law.

That everyone has a gender identity, and everyone has a sexual orientation, means that it is not only women and girls who face discrimination on the grounds of gender. In recognition of contemporary understandings of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and sex characteristics, this Module also directs students’ attention to the adverse impacts that gendered assumptions and practices can bear on individuals that identify as, or are perceived to be, persons with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and sex characteristics (often referred to by the insufficient acronym LGBTI – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex). This Module examines the main ways in which gendered assumptions impact on the operation of the criminal justice system and the implications that these have in either facilitating or impeding access to justice for women and girls as well as for LGBTI persons. In doing so, the Module emphasizes the impact that gendered assumptions and practices have not only on victims or complainants, but also on witnesses, defendants and prisoners in all the stages of the criminal justice system, including: reporting and investigation phases; pretrial; trial; sentencing; and post-sentencing and reintegration.

The Module is divided into four topics:

  • Topic 1: Gender-based discrimination and women in conflict with the law
  • Topic 2: The vulnerabilities of girls in conflict with the law
  • Topic 3: Discrimination and violence against individuals that identify as or are perceived to be LGBTI
  • Topic 4: Gender diversity in the criminal justice system workforce