A study of Women’s prisons in India

Women’s Prisons are jails that exclusively house female prisoners. Women’s jails may exist at the sub-divisional, district and central (zone/range) level. There were 20 Women’s Jails across India with a total capacity of 5,197 and an occupancy rate of 60.1% as on 31 December 2016.

As per the 2019 data released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its Prison Statistics report, out of the 4,78,600 prisoners, 4,58,687 were male prisoners and 19,913 were female prisoners.

Out of about 1,300 prisons, there are 31 women’s jails in 15 States/Union Territories (UTs) including Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Delhi, Karnataka Maharashtra, Mizoram, Odisha, Punjab, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The state of West Bengal has the highest occupancy rate (142.04%) in its women jail followed by Maharashtra (138.55%) and Bihar (112.5%).

These 31 prisons have a capacity of 6,511 inmates and currently, 3,652 women prisoners are housed in these jails. Hence, the occupancy rate is 56.1%. However, in states where there are no women jails, women are housed in separate sections of regular jails and hence, additionally, there are 16,261 female prisoners in regular jails. Uttarakhand has reported the highest female occupancy rate (170.1%) while Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of female prisoners (4,174) in the country.

In the 5-year period between 2014-19, the number of women inmates has increased by 21.7% (from 3,001 to 3,652) in women jails and by 10.77% (from 14,680 to 16,261) in regular jails.

In prison different committees appointed for prison reforms are granted many rights to women. These rights must be incorporated in the Prisons Act, 1984. These include –
• The search and examination of the female prisoners shall be carried out by the Matron under the general or specific order of the Medical Officer.
• The female prisoners have the right to live separately from the male prisoners as explained in Section 27(1) of the Prison Act 1894 and also in Rule 8(a) of Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
• Section 31 of the Prisons Act, 1894 talks about maintenance of certain prisoners from private sources.
• Section 33(1) of the Prisons Act, 1894 guides about the supply of clothing and bedding to civil and acquitted criminal prisoners.
• All the prisoners should be provided with the basic human rights such as healthy food, shelter, medical care and facilities for reading and writing. All should be treated respectfully and cannot be detained in a private cell, except on medical conditions or if he/she was proven threatening for other prisoners. Women should be provided with full medical and personal care at the time of delivery and they have to be released on bail for the delivery.
• Rule 53, Rule 23, Rule 24, Rule 25, and Rule 26 of The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners should be taken care of and hence followed.
• The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights(NCPCR) has advised that pregnant, ill or having children dependent women in jail should be considered for early release on personal bounds.
• Article 39A of the Indian Constitution strengthens the female inmates to secure free legal aid by providing a legal system to promote justice, on the basis of equal opportunity and to ensure that no one is discriminated in prevailing the legal benefits irrespective of their economic conditions.
• Section 303 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 privileges the inmates to be defended by the petitioner of their own choice. Section 304 deals with the legal aid cases which, should be in some cases provided at State expenses. Section 309(1) of CrPC, provides that the proceedings shall be held as soon as possible in every inquiry or trial.
• Women prisoners have the right to a speedy trial. As held in Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar that speedy trial is a fundamental right implicit under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
• Section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 contains a proper examination of the body of an arrested person by a registered medical practitioner on the request of the accused person in case of torture and maltreatment in the jails. But commonly, women prisoners are unaware of this right.
• Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution of India, provides conferring powers to the President and the Governors of States to grant a pardon or show clemency towards the prisoners.


There are a lot of activities and trainings provided to the women in prison to empower them to be able to start their life afresh after release. Stitching, weaving, fashion jewellery, jute products, balwari, embroidery, envelope making, pottery, diya and candle making, namkeen making, artificial flowers, herbal pack, dhoop agarbatti making, pickles and papad making, beauty culture, and painting are among the courses provided to female inmates. The other activities which are carried out in the female prison are Computer Literacy, English Speaking Course, Drawing, Painting and Dance classes.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs

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