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

Young environmentalist's arrest 'sinister', even parents not told of her whereabouts

By Our Representative  The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India (CEJI), a civil society network, has said that it is “highly disturbing” that Disha Ravi, a young woman climate activist from Bengaluru was “picked up” in what is referred to as a “closely guarded operation” of the Delhi police. Disha, 21, has been remanded to police custody for five days after she was taken from Bengaluru to Delhi.

Mukesh Ambani's earnings during Covid 'can lift' 40% informal workers out of poverty

By Dr Gian Singh*  The Inequality Virus Report released by Oxfam, a non-profit organization, on January 25, 2021 on the growing inequalities in different parts of the world, sheds light on the growing economic, educational, healthcare and gender inequalities in India. The report has revealed that the wealth of billionaires has increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown period in the country.

US forensic revelation enough evidence to release Sudha Bharadwaj, others: Civicus

Counterview Desk  Civicus, a Johannesburg-based global alliance of civil society organisations and activists claiming to have presence in 175 countries with 9,000 members and working for strengthening citizen action, has sought immediate release of Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in 2018 under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Evolution of Sardar Patel's understanding of those 'involved' in Gandhi's assassination

By Shamsul Islam*  As the world mourns the 73rd anniversary of MK Gandhi's assassination by Hindutva terrorists on January 30, 1948, RSS, the most prominent flag-bearer of Hindutva politics, whose cadres rule India today, is found reacting angrily to the reality – that the criminals who assassinated Gandhiji were not only part of the ideological world-view of Hindu Mahasabha (led by VD Savarkar) and RSS brand of Hindu nationalism but were also connected with these. 

No Election Commission safeguard against electromagnetic hacking of EVM: Study

Counterview Desk  Releasing a new study simultaneously in Chennai and Kolkata in view of the forthcoming elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) – a civil society initiative – has regretted “lack of integrity of EVM voting”, pointing out, the Election Commission of India (ECI) does not appear to safeguard against the possibilities of ‘side-channel attacks’, i.e, hacking electronic devices through electromagnetic and other methods.

20% of FIRs against journalists in 2020 alone, targeted attacks in 2021 'too many to count'

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls “alarming rise in state repression and clampdown on news outlets and journalists” that “expose” the anti-people nature of the establishment, India's top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has demanded “immediate release of arrested journalists, withdrawal of arbitrary charges and protection of media persons facing threats.”

'Viability' of agricultural cooperatives vs govt proposed pro-corporate economic model

Dr Gian Singh* The farmer struggle started from Punjab against the promulgation of three agricultural ordinances by the Union government in June 2020 and the enactment of three bills by Parliament in September 2020 to replace these ordinances is unique in many respects. There is no other example of such a peaceful and democratic farmer struggle.

Whither right to food? Social security scheme allocation for woman, child 'reduced'

Counterview Desk Pointing out that women and children have been ignored in the Union Budget 2021-22, the advocacy group Right to Food Campaign (RtFC) has said that the Government of India should have taken into account the fact that even after the lockdown was lifted, distress among marginalized communities continues, with people having lower incomes and reduced food consumption.