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Concern over ‘neglect’ of women prisoners

Experts say the policies for prisoners in India are made with men in mind, ignoring specific needs of women inmates.

Archana Phull | Shimla |

“Women prisoners in the country, who comprise four per cent of total jail inmates, are neglected… They have separate needs, whether biological needs, sanitation or rehabilitation.”

The plight of women prisoners in India was brought to light at the opening of two-day conference on ‘Women in detention and Access to Justice’ here, wherein the jail and police high ups stressed upon the need for giving special attention to women prisoners to improve their condition and deployment of more women officers in jails.

The conference was organised by the state directorate of prisons and correctional services, Himachal Pradesh and was attended by Police high ups and jail superintendents and deputy superintendents from 16 states, including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Telangana.

“We need to bring some changes in present laws pertaining to prisoners, based on gender, only then women prisoners can be facilitated,” said Director General of Police, Human Rights Commission, Haryana, KP Singh.

“The women issues certainly get neglected in jails, because of their numbers. The policies for prisons are made with men in mind. Although the per centage of women prisoners has remained the same, their numbers are increasing and profile changing,” said Upneet Lalli, Deputy Director, Correctional Administration, Chandigarh. She said the crimes committed by women generally include dowry demands, murder and sometimes thefts.

“In many cases, the women offenders are the victims of crime,” she added.
Lalli said the main worry about women prisoners is to facilitate their kids, who can be kept in the prison till 6 years of age. Superintendent of Central Jail, Jammu, Kotbhalwal, in J&K, Rajni Sehgal said like the women outside, the women in prisons are also treated as second grade citizens.

“There are around 120 women prisoners in J&K. It was after 2001 in J&K that women prisoners were provided sanitary napkins, Earlier they used cloth.

There are issues of hygiene, privacy, concern for mothers in jail, and psychological problems, which need to be addressed on priority through different set of rules,” she said, hammering the need for skill development of female prisoners at par with male inmates.

Deputy Superintendent at Panipat Jail in Haryana, Bimla said a number of women prisoners in Haryana are involved in crimes like killing of husband.

“The crime rate of women is on the higher side, and the women, in many cases, are themselves victims of crime.” She said the women in prison in Haryana are immediately disowned by family and society and they have to fight their battle alone. Families come to meet the male prisoners, not females- who ultimately suffer from psychological problems and rehabilitation issues in the conservative society,” she said. Bimla said more women officers should be there in jails, so that women prisoners can share their problems freely.

Director General of Police, Prisons and Correctional Services, Somesh Goel shared that out of 1401 jails in the country, only 18 are women jails. “We need to have more women jails, and in fact more women officers in jails. Eighty per cent of women prisoners are in the age of 18-50 years and there are possibilities of exploitation,” he said.