Girls in Justice

International Perspectives on Girls in Conflict with the Law

Recorded January 14, 2021


Manfred Nowak

Meda Chesney-Lind

Nafula Wafula

John Kamm

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treatment of justice-involved young women differs throughout the world. In “International Perspectives,” three leading experts take a unique perspective to identify fascinating commonalities. In a panel moderated by John Kamm, Meda Chesney-Lind of the University of Hawaii, Nafula Wafula of the Commonwealth Youth Council, and Independent Expert on the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty Manfred Nowak discuss local and global trends, create a picture of justice systems around the world and make recommendations to address these problems.

Meda Chesney-Lind discusses her research and findings focused on the United States, describing a society that has only recently started to recognize the needs of girls in the justice system. Manfred Nowak presents findings from his study on children deprived of liberty, identifying global trends of neglect, abuse, and exploitation. Nafula Wafula takes the audience on the journey of a typical girl offender through a justice system haunted by the remnants of colonialism and struggling to meet the needs of its charges.

Across all three presentations, some commonalities emerge. Community-based treatments provide the most promise for rehabilitation but are woefully under-resourced. Justice systems do not provide separate spaces for girl offenders, leaving them open to abuse at the hands of adults. Stigmatization runs rampant even as statistics struggle to grasp the whole picture. The young girls who do try to flee abuse are often met with carceral systems that serve as just another stop in the cycle of exploitation.

Here are some takeaways from the event:

“The system continues to punish [girls in conflict with the law] for seeking to escape this abuse and further harms and stigmatizes them often in the name of protecting them. These girls are not a public safety risk and can best be served in the communities in which they live.” – Meda Chesney-Lind

“In reality, far too many children are detained in the administration of justice in migration detention, in the context of armed conflict… Since childhood is the formative time of everyone’s life, it is to deprive children of their liberties [is] depriving them of their childhood and has lasting effects on their life but also on society in general.” – Manfred Nowak

“[Girls in conflict with the law] have challenges being reintegrated into the education system. They’re turned away from schools. They also have difficulty in securing housing and employment, mostly because they lack sufficient skills that will allow them to be reintegrated properly, but also because of the stigma.” -Nafula Wafula

Children Deprived of Liberty
Girls in Conflict with the Law
Girls, Delinquency and Juvenile Justice
Feminist Criminology in and Era of Misogyny
Annotated Bibliography: Girls in Conflict with the Law