The latest National Crime Records Bureau report of 2017 released this year reveals that over 1600 children who are under the age of six are lodged in prisons along with their mothers. Since infants and young children are allowed to stay in jail premises with their children, women, who are awaiting trials and serving a jail term for offences that they are convicts of, often have their children spending their formative years with them.

Supreme Court guidelines allow children below the age of three to be handled in a crèche facility within prisons and those above but below six to be looked after in nurseries run by jail authorities outside jail campus. Of all the states Uttar Pradesh and Bihar reported the highest number of children lodged in prisons — 332 and 146, respectively. But prisons in both states don’t have either a crèche facility or a nursery for these children. Only the prisons located in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Chandigarh follow the Supreme Court guidelines in terms of maintaining facilities for children inmates. But if they are adequate for the number of children inmates or not isn’t clear, reports News 18.

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The Union Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad during the 17th all India meet of the State Legal Services Authorities with several lawyers and judges in August recommended that women prisoners who have spent one-quarter of their sentence as an under trial should get bail.

Considering the needs of women in their post-natal stages, the report recommends a separate accommodation for mothers in the post-natal stage to maintain hygiene and protect the infant from contagion, for at least a year after childbirth.

He referred to section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure and said that in 50 per cent cases, the accused spends the entire period of sentence for the offence as under trial prisoner. “I would recommend that if a woman prisoner has spent 25 per cent of her sentence period as a trial prisoner, she should be immediately released,” he said, TOI reported.

In fact, in 2018, the Women and Child Development Ministry had released a report on women in prisons in which it had suggested separate accommodation for mothers in post-natal stage and women with caregiving responsibilities to be allowed to make arrangements for their children. It also proposed a reasonable suspension of detention may also be provided for this purpose.

Supreme Court guidelines allow children below the age of three to be handled in a crèche facility within prisons and those above but below six to be looked after in nurseries run by jail authorities outside jail campus.

“In case there are no family/friends where the child (above six years of age) can be left, he must be placed in a Child Care Institution. To address the problems of loss of ties with the child, the report encourages greater links of the child with the mother throughout her incarceration through extended visits and frequent meetings,” it suggested in the report.

ALSO READ: Chhattisgarh Women’s Prisons Most Overcrowded: NCRB Data

Considering the needs of women in their post-natal stages, the report recommends a separate accommodation for mothers in the post-natal stage to maintain hygiene and protect the infant from contagion, for at least a year after childbirth. Apart from the needs of pregnant and lactating women, the report also suggested that special provisions relating to health and nutrition be made for women who have recently given birth outside the prison, or who have undergone abortion or miscarriage.

While several such interventions are talked about, women prisoners hardly ever receive the benefits of them. According to 2015 data, there are 4,19,623 persons in jail in India, of which, 17,834 (about 4.3%) are women. Of these, 11,916 (66.8%) are under trial prisoners.  A majority of female inmates are in the age group of 30-50 years (50.5%), followed by 18-30 years (31.3%). Of the total 1,401 prisons in India, only 18 are exclusive for women, housing 2,985 female prisoners.

Picture credit: Hindustan Times

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