Only 18 jails for women in country

Majority of the states have not adopted the Model Prison Manual , “a stepping stone towards prison reforms”, that includes having separate jails for women offenders, prostitutes, adolescent girls and female warders.

The manual drafted by Bureau of Police Research and Development, under the Union Home Ministry, spells out that  a child up to six years of age shall be admitted to prison with his mother if no other arrangements for keeping him with relatives  can be made. “Children born in prison may remain with their mothers up to six years of age, if they cannot otherwise be suitably placed,” it says. But in reality, the excessively crowded jails across the country hardly provide occasion for implementing a uniform and modern prison management.

The condition is bad to worse in most of the states and union territories. There are only 18 jails for women in the country with most  of states having only “separate enclosures” or “separate wards” for women which hardly solve the problem of their safety and privacy. “Most of the state governments are yet to adopt the Model Prison Manual,” complaints a parliamentary committee that visited jails across the country.

The panel has asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to “vigorously pursue the matter” with state governments to “ensure” implementation of the manual.  

The committee recommended that “at least one separate jail” for women in each state with basic amenities was a must. Most of the states have tried to delay  the modern jail management with some putting the manual in a cold storage by  forming a committee to scrutinise it and others “processing”  it without giving  a  time-frame.  

Karnataka government maintained that it has been “examining” the revision of Karnataka Prison Manual on the basis of Centre’s Model Prison Manual. “Decision would be taken as expeditiously as possible,” it said.

As about having a  separate enclosure (let alone an exclusive prison)  for women the Union home ministry informed the committee that a detailed  advisory was sent to all states on July 17, 2009, but  majority of them are yet to construct separate prisons. Goa said since it has “very negligible women prisoners” , it did not feel need for a separate women prison while  Delhi has a separate prison for women where 480 women prisoners are kept “ against the sanctioned capacity of 400 prisoners”. Manipur is yet to have exclusive jail for women.

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