Skip to main content

Lack of policy concern despite 61% increase in women prisoners in India since 2001

Sukalo Gond, Sudha Bharadwaj, Soni Sori
Counterview Desk
A public hearing, to be held on January 18, 2019 at the Constitution Club of India, New Delhi by the All India Union of Forest Working People and Delhi Solidarity Group, has been planned on women activists allegedly falsely implicated and are languishing in jails. It will be addressed, among others, by women rights leaders, human rights lawyers, academicians and civil society activists.
The public hearing has been organized in the memory of Bharti Roy Chaudhary, who was a pioneer in raising women’s forest and land rights issues as a founding member of National Forum of Forest Working People (NFFPFW) and Uttar Pradesh Land Right and Labour Rights Campaign Committee.

Concept note*: 

India’s jails have seen a rise in women inmates by more than 61% since 2001. However, they are only 4.3% of the total inmates in the nation’s jails and thus are unable to raise any red flags in the larger scheme of things. Women in Indian jails are not a major policy concern for the state. For decades, they have suffered the lack of basic infrastructure, health care, vocational training and humane treatment.
A Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) report says that there were 11,094 women prisoners, forming 3.5% of the total prison population in 2001. Fifteen years later, Indian prisons house 17,834 women inmates, an increase of 61 percent. In the last decade, 477 women inmates have died inside prison. A larger cultural understanding of criminality dictates that crime is masculine in nature. Any women who dare to perform this masculinity deserve to be dehumanised and made to be invisible.
A report of women in prisons published in June 2018 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development says, “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. Thus, a majority of women inmates are housed in women’s enclosures of general prisons.”
From custodial torture, rape, denial of health services, lack of clean food and water and a sheer ignorance on behalf of the state, the Indian prison has failed to respect the rights of the inmates. Various studies done within Indian prisons have always concluded that majority of prisoners come from Adivasis, Dalits and other marginalised communities are being criminalised.
Their social and economic backwardness makes them vulnerable, being not being able to defend themselves legally and financially. They are targeted by the State more than citizens belonging to upper caste upper class gentry. This then brings into question the role of the prison, the State and their goal when it comes to countering crime.
Crime by definition means the gross violation of law, the subjectivity of the act of crime requires investigation, and judicial intervention. But as many reports have found, a majority of confessions from prisoners who come from socially and economically underprivileged background are forced out of them through torture and blackmail.
In such cases, fundamental rights and basic human rights are flouted openly. In colonial era jails, Indian women who fought for the country’s freedom were thrown in jails to languish for years before they were let out. In those times, women being thrown into jail had two very important consequences.
First, it was the fact that women were no longer being viewed as docile and submissive citizens of the country, the authorities had a new wave of people to contend with; and secondly, women were able to join this to the larger fight of equality with men. Their participation in the freedom struggle and facing the same hardships as their male counterparts was a huge blow to gender norms and prescriptive roles that women were expected to play.
It is important to note that the struggle to protect the land, water and forests led by women across India is resisting the anti-people policies unleashed by the governments. While actively resisting these inhuman models of development, the women are implicated in fabricated cases forged by the 'protectors' of law and order.
Today, thousands of women are wasting away in jails, not being treated like humans, held over false cases, being raped and tortured by police officials, and most of them belong to underprivileged sections of the society. Women who have been active in the forefront of protecting the natural resources have been falsely implicated in cases by the police of each state respectively.
Activists like Soni Sori and Sudha Bharadwaj, forest rights activists like Sukalo Gond, Rajkumari, Kismatiya, Sobha of All India Union of Forest Working Peoples, women from Narmada Bachao Andolan women in Kudankulam, Adivasi women of Chhattisgarh, Odisha (with specific reference to Niyamgiri), cultural activist like Sheetal Sathe etc. are among many who are continued to be persecuted by the State on a daily basis.
This state of affairs needs to be examined in the light of the way in which governmentality is being thrusted upon people who work with the Adivasis, Dalits and marginalised communities struggling for their survival.
---
*Slightly edited. Prepared by Ashok Choudhary, Roma (All India Union of Forest Working People), and Anil Tharayath Varghese (Delhi Solidarity Group)

Comments

TRENDING

It's now official: Developed Gujarat's regular, casual workers earn less than 19 top states

By Rajiv Shah
Though not as low as state chief minister Vijay Rupani claims it to be (0.9%), Gujarat’s unemployment rate, at least as reflected in a recent report released by the Government of India, is 4.8%, lower than the national average, 6%. Yet, ironically, the same report, released soon after the Lok Sabha polls came to an end in May 2019, brings to light an even grimmer reality: Lower wages in "model" and "developed" Gujarat compared to virtually the whole of India, including the so-called Bimaru states.

Amaravati: World Bank refusing to share public grievances on Land Pooling Scheme

By Our Representative
A new report, prepared by the advocacy group Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), New Delhi, has taken strong exception to the World Bank refusing to share its independent assessment of the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), floated by the Andhra Pradesh government in order to build the new capital.

Beijing-based infrastructure bank 'funding' India's environmentally risky projects

By Our Representative
A new civil society note has questioned the operations of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to fund projects in India through the Government of India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), calling it “a risky venture”.

Why crib? 4.5% is far better than pre-1980 'Hindu rate of growth': Subramanian replies

By Rajiv Shah
Even as sticking to his original argument that India's gross domestic product (GDP) since 2011-12 has been overestimated by 2.5%, renowned economist Arvind Subramanian has said in a fresh paper that his estimate of post-2011-12 growth rate at around 4.5% is surely not "implausibly low", as some of his critics have been arguing following his controversial June paper.

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

Govt of India 'lying': MGNREGA budget reduced by Rs 1,084 crore in 2019-20

Counterview Desk
NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a well-known advocacy group for the rural jobs guarantee scheme, under implementation since 2005, has said that the statement by the Rural Development Minister has a made a mockery of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) on the floor of Parliament, revealing the ruling BJP’s “anti-worker and anti-poor bias”.

Include all workers exposed to silica dust in anti-TB programme: Govt of India told

Counterview Desk
In a letter, sponsored by well-known civil rights organization, Occupational & Environmental Health Network of India and signed by more than 60 professionals and activists*, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has been told that Indian policy makers shouldn't just acknowledge higher TB risk to mine and stone crusher workers, but also “other silica-exposed workers”.

UP's Sonbhadra killing of 10 tribals highlights 'failure' to implement Forest Rights Act

Counterview Desk On July 17, as many as 10 people, including three women, were killed and 28 injured when a village head and his supporters opened fire on a group of tribal farmers in Ubha village of Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh. While the firing took place following a clash between over a land ownership dispute, it reportedly highlights failure of officials enforce Forest Rights Acts (FRA) and Survey Settlement in favour of tribals.

Universal healthcare? India lacks provisions to 'fight' non-communicable diseases

By Moin Qazi*
Universal health coverage (UHC) -- ensuring that all people receive proper and adequate health care without suffering financial hardship -- is an integral part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It enables countries to make the most of their strongest asset: human capital.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.