A Report on Improving the Condition of Women Inmates in Prisons

FOCUS

This report was published in the year 2018 by the Government of India’s National Commission for Women, New Delhi. The report highlights the discrimination and violation of human rights that women residing in prisons across India face during their stay. The structural discrimination faced by these women continues even after their release, the report notes. It also presents data on various ‘positive’ changes implemented in prisons across the country.

The National Commission for Women – the report states – routinely conducts inspections of jails and custodial homes to ensure that the rights of women prisoners are not violated. The inspection team comprises of chairpersons, members and officers of the National Commission for Women, as well as representatives of State Women Commissions, District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) and local non-governmental organisations. The present report presents the finding of inspections undertaken from November 2017 to May 2018 in 20 central jails – in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Tripura. It also contains data provided by State Women Commissions on several district jails, sub-jails, special jails and circle jails.

The 112-page report is divided into five chapters and two annexures: Introduction (Chapter I); Inspection of Central Prisons - Some Positives (Chapter II); Inspection by State Commission for Women (Chapter III); Findings and Major Shortcomings (Chapter IV); Summary of Recommendations (Chapter V); Observation/Recommendations In case of Prisons Inspected by Commission (Annexure 1); and Observations/Recommendations Based on Scrutiny of proforma of various Prisons (Annexure 2).

    FACTOIDS

  1. The report states that some positive structural arrangements have been made in central jails across the country to ensure the welfare of women prisoners. These include separate barracks for women inmates, increased division of labour between male and female inmates for cooking activities, and the presence of a few women staff in barracks reserved for women.

  2. In some central jails, inmates receive free legal aid through the District Legal Services Authority, as well as religious and spiritual sessions conducted by NGOs. The report states that women inmates can also access educational courses through open and distance learning programmes.

  3. Women inmates can take up vocational training or skill development classes in some central jails, the report notes. However, such training is limited to the “traditional trades” of cutting, tailoring, knitting and embroidery, which adhere to gender stereotypes.

  4. After inspection, the State Women Commission of Odisha found that various prisons in the state – not including central jails – faced problems of staff shortages, unavailability of specialist doctors like gynaecologists, poor food quality and the lack of common areas.

  5. The State Women Commission of Telangana noted that several jails in the state kept female inmates without a history of crime separately, conducted monthly cultural programmes as well as routine sensitisation programmes for inmates as well as the jail staff.

  6. The State Women Commission of Madhya Pradesh found that most jails in the state lacked a crèche facility, did not have arrangements for skill training and were short of medical facilities for female inmates. In many cases, undertrials were kept in jails for long periods, sometimes even in cases where bail was admissible.

  7. The report recommends recruiting an adequate amount of women staff to ensure that the work concerning women inmates is conducted exclusively by them.

  8. In jails where the women barracks are overcrowded, the report states, there must be arrangements to accommodate inmates in other facilities.

  9. Convicts and undertrials should be kept in separate barracks, the report recommends.

  10. The report suggests installing washbasins and toilets in proportion to the inmate population to maintain the quality of sanitation facilities in jails. Running water supplies, overhead tanks for storing water and adequate kitchens should also be made available. Provisions for sanitary napkins and their proper disposal are also recommended.

  11. The report notes that the quality of legal aid being provided through DLSA services should be improved and a system for monitoring assistance provided by advocates should be established.

  12. Vocational training programmes – supported by NGOs and the National Skill Development Corporation – could aid female inmates to procure employment after their release.

  13. There should be more medical specialists like gynaecologists and dermatologists to regularly inspect the health of female inmates; this should be done at least on a weekly basis.


    Focus and Factoids by Debadrita Saha.

AUTHOR

National Commission for Women, Government of India, New Delhi

COPYRIGHT

National Commission for Women, Government of India, New Delhi

PUBLICATION DATE

2018

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