Alice Project for Women Facing the Death Penalty Uncovers Previously Hidden Discrimination Against Women and Girls

The Center has embarked on a groundbreaking project—named the Alice Project in honor of a former client in Malawi—to illuminate gender-based discrimination against women facing capital punishment. The Alice Project has quickly gained momentum since its launch in late 2018, and has already been the subject of several international activities.

Panel at Alice Project

Pictured (left to right): Lawyer John Carlson, Professor Elizabeth Brundige, Executive Director Delphine Lourtau, and Professor Sandra Babcock speaking on a panel at the launch of the Alice Project.

Launch of research report

The first milestone in the Alice Project is the release of a three-year research report, entitled Judged for More than Her Crime: A Global Overview of Women Facing the Death Penalty. The Center also published a factsheet on prison conditions for women on death row, in collaboration with Penal Reform International and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

Legal advocacy to create regional and international precedent

The Center has moved quickly to provide legal briefing and advocacy materials to lawyers representing women facing the death penalty. Our work has already borne fruit: in 2019, lawyers in Uganda reported that a High Court judge overturned the death sentence of a woman on death row after considering our research. In addition, the Center has taken on the representation of two women sentenced to death in Malawi and Tanzania, both of whom are survivors of brutal attacks by their former husbands. In the case of Jenecia Philemon, we are preparing to file an appeal to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights that highlights the connection between Jenecia’s long history of abuse and the offense for which she was ultimately sentenced to death. We are also assisting two women facing the death penalty in Zanzibar, where cultural norms and legal statutes prevent the consideration of gender-based oppression in capital sentencing. One woman is a trafficking victim, and the other is accused of killing her domestic partner, who beat and stabbed her before she finally fought back. We have obtained lawyers for both women and are assisting in the investigation of their cases.

World Congress Against the Death Penalty

In February 2019, the Center participated in the first ever roundtable on women facing capital punishment at the World Congress Against the Death Penalty. As a panelist on the roundtable, Executive Director Delphine Lourtau shared lessons learned from the Alice Project.

U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs

In March 2019, Executive Director Delphine Lourtau spoke at a side event at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, focusing on women and other vulnerable groups impacted by the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

Building a movement around women and capital punishment

In collaboration with Harm Reduction International, the Center is convening a series of regional meetings to build worldwide strategies to tackle gender-based discrimination in the application of the death penalty. These meetings are bringing together advocates, activists, and practitioners from the gender rights and abolitionist movements to create new alliances and to strategize around a global campaign to highlight gender oppression in capital sentencing. The first meeting took place in London in September 2019. The second meeting will take place in Jakarta, Indonesia at the end of 2019, and the third meeting will take place in Ithaca, New York in May 2020.