Gender equity is absolutely a myth according to me as because a woman has to face much more hurdles in a prison than a man does. Firstly they are the mothers and the birth givers so there could not be any comparison between men and women at all. From the ancient period till now if we see men are always admired to be strong and they can fight for themselves on the other hand, women always considered to be innocent and vulnerable they need attention and protection from the third person. Men are likely to commit more crime than women due to their high temper and keen interest in proving their masculinity. Women rarely commit crime compared to men and once they are convicted they fail as a mother also. This act leads to psychological problem in them and their children as well. The common crimes committed by women are generally pick pocketing and selling stolen items, house breaking, petty theft. It has been found women prisoner learn from their past crimes but men are likely to repeat the same offence over and over.
In our patriarchal society women has always been looked down as inferior, though there are protection and safeguard for women under our Indian Constitution. Under Article 15 of the Constitution it forbids discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Yet still in this 21st century also women are being discriminated.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru once told “you can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of women in the country.”
There are multiple problems that women go through inside a prison those are:
- Separation from their children
There are many mothers inside the prison who are separated from their children. Among them there are under trial prisoners and prisoners who are accused of non-cognizable offence. Example – stealing, public nuisance, cheating, forgery etc.
- Sexual abuse and harassment
Inside the prison women often face sexual harassment and abuse by the people on duty there. It included inappropriate touching of private parts there is sexual coercion on them. Even heinous offence such as rape on the women . They have to face all these which leaves them in a state of mental frustration.
- Menstruation and lack of hygiene
Women during their menstruation need proper hygiene and care, whereas in maximum prison they are offered five sanitary pads for two inmates which make their situation more vulnerable and prone to infectious internal disease.
Pregnant inmates face difficult circumstances as it’s a phase where proper nutrition plays a greater role they need high proteins and vitamins but it’s missing in our prison system. That’s why their pregnancy termed as “high risk” as medical aid is also poor there.
- Physical and mental health care
Women often go through trauma and mental depression which affect their physical health. And due to the poor hygiene inside prison women inmates get inflicted of gynecological problem such as irregular menstrual bleeding and vaginal discharge.
- Children with their mother inside the prison
Under the statute children up to the age of six years are allowed to stay with mothers. All children must get proper education and nutrition along with their mother inside the prison.
Now, if we look worldwide Hong Kong has the largest number of women inmates according to the 2021 survey report.
There was a famous landmark case regarding Gender Equity:
Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra
This case reported in All India Reporter 1983 SC 378, a letter from Sheela Barse, a journalist, complaining of custodial violence faced by the women inmates when they are detained in police custody in the city of Mumbai. After this case came to the limelight the Court issued various directions to the State of Maharashtra conferring protection to women inmates in police custody.
Christian Community Welfare Council of India v. Government of Maharashtra
This particular judgement dealt with arrest of woman. It was held by the Bombay High Court that woman cannot be arrested after sunset and before sunrise. No female should be arrested in the absence of a lady constable and at night. However, there is an exception where a female can be arrested without a lady constable and at night where there is accurate reasons recorded with the permission of the Judicial Magistrate of First Class is already taken.
Under Section 46 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 with the Amendment Act, 2005
A new sub-section (4) is being added to Section 46 which prohibits arrest of woman after sunset and before sunrise except in unavoidable circumstances.
With that the UN Women annual report 2011 has also provided certain initiatives to bring women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Rights of women during detention
Whenever a women is arrested there must be proper arrangement along with modesty. There must be separate prison for men and women they cannot be kept in the same lockup.
First women prison in the world
Around 1873, established the Indiana Women’s Prison in the United States which created separate institution for female inmates. It also offers maximum security for the female inmates. United state also have this incredible facility for mother who are pregnant it’s known as Prison Nursery where the mother gives birth to their young ones while they are serving their sentence. They have the liberty to keep their child with them until they reach eighteen months of age. There are almost nine states that have prison nurseries in the United States: Washington, Ohio, West Virginia, Wyoming, New York, Dakota, Illinois and Nebraska. Belford Hills Correctional Facility for Women is the oldest prison nursery in the New York which gives maximum security.
In Europe, there are almost 1,00,000 women and girls in prison though representing a small proportion of the prison population. Maximum of them serve short sentence and are imprisoned for non-violent offences or drug related offences. They usually come from deprived family background that has worse experience issues related to alcohol and drug, infectious diseases, physical and sexual abuse. For example, in England and Wales, it was noted that 90% of the women prisoners have a diagnosable mental disorder and substance use or both.
Indian Prison System for Women
According to National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) report, around 1800 child in India are staying with their mother without even committing any offence they have to live their childhood in the dark corners of prison. There is over crowding as out of 1,350 prisons in India, only 31 prisons are reserved for women. India also has around 800 foreigner women in prison. According to India Spend’s report in India, in the year 2019, an average of 1,586 or 9% of all women inmates had children with them and 1/4th of these mothers are under-trial. There are 31 jails for women in 15 States and Union Territories of India. However, the child who stays inside the prison with their mother doesn’t get proper education.
Asha, a 34 year old woman who is a ration shop keeper stays in Rohini, Delhi. She is convicted for murdering her step-child and in the year 2018 she completed nine year sentence in Gurugram District Jail within National Capital Region (NCR) in Haryana. When her daughter was born inside jail in 2009, there are hardly any facilities for women who are pregnant stated Asha. Still Asha manages to meet her once in a month.
Lastly, I would conclude by saying that the Prison Commission should pay more attention to women in prison. As women need proper hygiene, healthcare facility and nutrition who are pregnant and who has child. The harassment and sexual offence that they face inside the prison and in police custody, the government should take steps immediately on that. As they are kept in prison so that they can be reformed but this inhumane practice makes them more vulnerable which affect not only their physically but mental health deeply. The prison authority must take steps to uplift their health and medical aid when needed. There should be rehabilitation programs like sports, arts, writing, dancing and singing which would help them to grow as a better person in near future. In this way only we are able to erase the mental stress and depression from them. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) University mesmerizingly works to secure female inmate’s rights to abortion, appropriate medical care, healthy labor and childbirth. The Federal Bureau of Prisons mandated that women inmates must get free sanitary pads and tampons.
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.
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