Forgotten: The Pandemic Of Gender-Based Violence In Indian Prisons

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Gender violence is one of the most concerning issues today, with various organizations around the world taking it up as a cause for immediate action. Of this, the women who are in many ways least catered to are those in prison, considered as sub-par citizens in India even though the law clearly states that all the privileges and rights of human beings must be given to them.

One particular issue in this regard is that of grievance redressal. A report by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in India, published in 2018, listed ineffective and insufficient grievance redressal mechanisms in prisons as one of the fundamental problems that women in prisons face. This has a variety of causes and wide-reaching negative consequences on the health, well-being and the rights of these prisoners.

The primary cause of this issue in India is the massive overcrowding of prisons. This, when combined with already insufficient infrastructure to accommodate even a regular number of prisoners and a severe shortage of staff, results in nearly all prisons in the country not having services to secure the health, nutrition, legal, and other concerns of women prisoners. The possible grievances they could face include sexual violence and harassment within the prisons by both other prisoners and jailers, nutrition issues where their prescribed diet, especially for pregnant women, are not given, legal support which undertrial women must receive, and sanitation.

Most prisons have no tangible and clear grievance redressal measures as per the Prison Code, and prisoners are bullied using threats and fear tactics to dissuade them from ever expressing any grievances towards the prisons facilities. Until we are able to create prisons where the occupants are treated with dignity, the government and the democracy will be failing a key portion of the country’s citizens — and one of the largest prison populations in the world.

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