Conference ‘Women’s health in Prison’ and HIPP Network Meeting

12-15 November 2008, Kyiv, Ukraine

The 14th annual conference of the WHO Health in Prisons Project (HIPP) took place in Kyiv, Ukraine. Representatives from 30 countries joined WHO/Europe and other organizations to review issues on women’s health and health care in prisons in Europe and to discuss a draft of the Kyiv Declaration.

During the conference presentations were given by an international range of experts, including government representatives, senior prison and health practitioners, academics and representatives from a number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Several presentations followed, about the situation in some specific countries, as well as on specific issues affecting women prisoners, like mental health problems, drug problems, bloodborne diseases and children.

The presenters often repeated a clear underlying principle: health and health care are fundamental human rights, whether a person stays in prison or not. Presenters also affirmed that a gender-specific criminal justice system is essential in order to ensure that equivalent health care as available to women in the society is provided.

Ukraine participants described the event as momentous and memorable. It was the first time in the country’s history that a conference was dedicated specifically to the health of women prisoners.

At the end of the conference the draft Kyiv Declaration “Women’s health in prison” was presented and discussed. Participants commented that the Declaration would definitely raise the awareness of the differences in basic needs as well as health needs between men and women prisoners. They agreed that adequate improvement would not be possible without support from the Ministers of Health and Justice for the Declaration.

In conclusion, the WHO/HIPP conference on women’s health in prison provided further evidence that there is an urgent need for change to ensure that basic human rights, gender equity, and social justice are guaranteed to all women in prison.

WHO/Europe published the Kyiv Declaration in early 2009, accompanied by some practical checklists and guidance notes.