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Women in Detention - Incarceration of Women in India

By:   •  December 6, 2018  •  Research Paper  •  5,677 Words (23 Pages)  •  39 Views

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WOMEN IN DETENTION

INCARCERATION OF WOMEN IN INDIA

                           NAME OF AUTHOR            -       ARPITA SINGH

                           NAME OF CO-AUTHOR     -       AKARSH DAYAL

                           DESIGNATION                    -       STUDENT (LLB. (HONS.) 3rd YEAR)

                           UNIVERSITY NAME          -       GALGOTIAS UNIVERSITY

                           EMAIL.ID:                                    arpi1993.7509@gmail.com,

                                                                                  advakarshdayal@gmail.com

                                                                                                                                                                     


Introduction

Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.” 
― 
Angela Davis

Social position of women has always been something of concern. They were never kept on equal footing with men. Proportion of females as compared to males has always been relatively low but this is changing now, their numbers are increasing considerably amongst the population. Studies have shown that number of female prisoners are increasing at a faster rate than that of male prisoners.[1] This has led to great disparities in the prison conditions for female prisoners raising serious problems for them to live inside. Problems related to sanitation, proper meals and hygiene often pose a great challenge for female prisoners. Though India has not ratified the Bangkok rules, the Constitution of India provides articles for development, care and welfare for women and children. These articles include fundamental rights in part III and directive principles in part IV of the Constitution of India. Also, there have been detailed committee reports throwing light on this issue such as Justice Mulla Committee Report on Prison Reforms (1982-83) and Justice Krishna Ayer Report on Women Prisoners (1986-87). These reports tried to make some changes in the Prison Act of 1894.[2] Up to 100 years after this act hardly any changes were made. The Justice Mulla Committee Report however played a significant role in making some improvements in the Act, its objective was to review laws, rules and regulations keeping in view that the prisoners should be rehabilitated well, it also suggested that women prisoners shall be given importance even when they are low in number. Followed by Justice Krishna Ayer Report, it mostly emphasized on women prisoners by suggesting that more women police officers should be posted in these jails so that a non-hostile environment can be created for them.[3] The prisoners are not sent to jails for punishment but as a punishment, living a life away from their family is already a harsh situation and upon that facing difficulties such as mental, physical and social abuse will only make things worse. A woman not only faces the tag of being a criminal but her life changes when she is out of her incarcerated period, her husband abandons her and marries some other woman, her children are not allowed to meet her as the father gets the custody of the child, her own parents refuse to keep her with them, she can no longer work in the same office where she worked earlier, now the question is, why the society is so biased towards women in every aspect of life, why she has to face all the hardships? Such questions can never be answered simply because of two reasons, firstly, the status of women is very complicated; secondly, not many around find the topic of women prisoners worth raising their voice and facing hardships for them. This research paper mainly focuses on the condition of incarcerated women in different parts of India and with an overview of incarcerated women in foreign country while throwing light on the rights of women under detention and problems faced by children of these women. Internationally, the status of women in custody is also not very good, women are facing hardships and children of these women have become the unintended victims of the same.[4]

Overview of Indian prisons

India is country where women are worshiped as goddesses yet it is listed third in the most unsafe countries for women in the world. The women under trial or convicted are also facing difficulties in various facets. Out of total number of prisons in India i.e. 1401 only 18 prisons are for women, 12 states and union territories have women prisons, Bihar, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Tripura and Delhi have one prison each whereas Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal have two prison each. Such visual disparity is enough to understand the condition of custodial women.[5] The states which do not have women jails keep women in central jails which is another story of nightmare for them.

Conditions of the prisons inhabiting women prisoners are tragically low. These incarcerated women are provided with pathetic living conditions and the number of programmes carried out for the betterment of these women is also fairly low.  The jails are often overcrowded.  Women prisoners are subjected to sexual or physical abuse under the presence of male staff. They often experience improper touching during searches or being watched while using the toilets or showering and dressing.

It has been observed that about 70% of the female inmates are married meaning that after marriage inter personal relations are not so good and therefore they end up committing crimes and they are sometimes falsely charged with the cases.[6] The government is trying to raise the level of education of females in India, contrary to which the number of female prisoners is increasing, also most of the convicts in jails are not educated and they are not aware of their rights, legal aid from the government is very less, their lawyers hardly come and meet them before their appearance in the court, they are not given a chance to explain their side of the story.[7] The highest number of inmates i.e. 3533 females were reported in Uttar Pradesh followed by Maharashtra i.e. 1336, Madhya Pradesh i.e. 1322, Punjab i.e. 1135 and Bihar i.e. 891, and despite these high numbers no proper facilities have been provided to the female convicts.[8]

Condition of women and their children (the unintended victims)

This atrocious condition of women who have been incarcerated must gain attention. They are mentally and physically effected to a great extent. Though they are in minority in prison population, their needs and rights need to be looked upon. The areas of concern are:

  • Inappropriate Staffing
  • Lack of family contact and their support
  • Lack of education and work programs
  • Lack of legal awareness
  • High proportion of women with history of mental and physical abuse
  • The adverse impact of imprisonment of mothers on their children[9]

A study of jails of Rajasthan has revealed that the condition of Women are not so different than rest of the jails:[10]

  • Majority of women were arrested without informing them about their ground of arrest however some of them were made aware
  • Majority of women stated that there are no education programmes conducted and even if they were convicted they were not made aware about them however few of them stated that educational programs were conducted for them.
  • Majority of Women stated that there is no separate wing for habitual prisoners.
  • 30% of the women stated that when they suffered from serious illness they were provided with proper sanitation and rest of them stated that they did not suffer any such serious illness.
  • About 60% of the women said that they did not have any contact with their family members because of abandonment, rest of them said that they had contact with their family members who often visited them. Those 60% of the women were basically from poor families whose family has disowned them after their imprisonment.
  • A very small amount of women prisoners stated that there were no violation of their rights inside the prison and the rest majority said that at some point of time they have faced injustice from the prison authorities.

It is clear from the brief list above that the needs of women prisoners are met but not convincingly enough, they are being overlooked. The prison authorities should bear in mind that a regular check must be kept in order to ensure that they are abiding the rules and regulations formed by the government and international authorities.[11] Parity differs conceptually from ‘equality’ and stresses the importance of equivalence rather than sameness: Women offenders should receive opportunities, programs and services that are equivalent and not identical, to those available to male offenders.[12] 

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