Our women’s rights trailblazer today is Head of Garden Court’s Civil Liberties Team, Maya Sikand. Today sees the launch of a key report she has written, sponsored by The Griffins Society, into whether the current procedure for women prisoners to gain a place in prison mother and units is fair and accessible.
“This International Women’s Day, whilst I will be thinking of women in a million contexts all over the world, my focus will be on mothers in our criminal justice system who sometimes have their babies torn from them at birth.
It’s 10 years this month since Corston’s report into women in the criminal justice system was published and the female prison population is not declining. Having a child can be an overwhelmingly important period in a woman’s life and separation from that child can have profound and lifelong consequences for both mother and baby. Indeed, our higher courts have recognised that there are few interventions more serious than separating a mother from her baby. In 2013, I acted for a woman prisoner (WB) in a judicial review based on an Article 8 ECHR procedural and substantive challenge to the fairness of the admissions procedure for a place in a prison Mother and Baby Unit (MBU). This case, combined with the reported under-use of MBUs, as well as reportedly high rejection rates, raised vital questions for me:
How do we treat pregnant women law-breakers when they are sentenced to custody?
How do women apply for a place in a Mother and Baby Unit in the prison?
What are the key challenges for them?
Why are there such challenges?
How can they be addressed?
I began a Griffins Society Research Fellowship in 2015 on this topic and I have recently finished it, just in time for International Women’s Day. I have made a number of recommendations for change which I will be pushing the MOJ take up in every way that I can. #BeBoldForChange”
Maya will be launching the report at Garden Court’s International Women’s Day event this evening: Sentencing and Beyond: Women in prison and access to mother & baby units. This is one of five events we are hosting this week to mark IWD. Other speakers include Garden Court barrister Paramjit Ahluwalia, Linda Pizani Williams of The Griffins Society and Lucy Baldwin of De Montfort University.
Join in the conversation on Twitter #BeBoldForChange #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2017