Research published on girls in conflict with the law

1 December 2016: uganda-cicl-report-coverMy literature review for Chance for Childhood Girls in conflict with the law in Uganda has just been published. The study assesses girls’ experiences and needs before, during and after contact with the criminal and informal justice systems, and provides lessons based on best practice and international frameworks.

Girls make up almost 10% of the population of children in conflict with the law (CICL) in Uganda. The criminal justice system in Uganda is also used for the ‘safe custody’ of girls and girls may be detained simply because they are victims of crime, for example of forced marriages, child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Discrimination encountered by girls in the criminal justice system could also include blaming the victim for her own rape, or being sexually assaulted by the Police when reporting a crime.

International legal frameworks demand that juvenile justice systems should be directed at rehabilitation and reintegration. These legal frameworks also place emphasis on the unique risks and vulnerabilities faced by girls and the significance of diversion programmes, so that children are not processed through (and stigamtised by) the criminal justice system. The role of informal justice systems is vital in dealing with girls in conflict with the law, but there is a risk they may uphold rather than challenge the values of the society around them, including gender discrimination.

The drivers of coming into conflict with the law include vulnerabilities specific to girls such as being forced into sex work as a survival strategy, the plight of domestic maids who may be arrested as a result of disputes with employers, and a girl’s lack of access to land, which makes her economically vulnerable. Issues such as child marriage and teenage pregnancy also limit education and livelihood options for girls. A common theme for girls in conflict with the law, is their limited choices and survival strategies. Expanding the choices available is therefore “the next logical step”.

This is an important piece of research, because while there are a huge amount of resources on children in conflict with the law generally, there is surprisingly little on the situation of girls, particularly that which looks at the situation of girls holistically, taking into account multiple risk factors and underlying social conditions.

Read the full article Uganda: New insights to support girls in conflict with the law

PDF of the report

Liberty & Humanity