ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Freedom behind Bars

Women prisoners bear the brunt of patriarchal prejudices.

The death of a 38-year-old inmate of Mumbai’s prison for women at Byculla on 24 June reminds us of the abysmal state of Indian prisons in general and the gender-based cruelty that women convicts and undertrials face in particular. Manjula Shette, who had been assigned warden duties due to paucity of staff, was beaten to death when she confronted a female jail officer about the inadequate number of eggs and bread slices allotted to her barrack inmates. The post-mortem report by the government-run J J Hospital doctors said her death was due to injuries and the body bore multiple contusions all over. A fellow inmate’s eyewitness account mentioned in the first information report (FIR) filed by the police said that Shette was not only beaten brutally by prison staff but also subjected to sexual torture by three women constables. Despite this, although six of the jail staff have been identified, no one has been arrested.

Women behind bars have to contend with the worst forms of patriarchal prejudices not only from society at large but also from their own families and the jail staff. Studies show that Indian families are much more censorious and unforgiving of female convicts and undertrials and this translates into the women receiving fewer visits, if at all, from their kith and kin and having less of the family’s precious resources (a majority are from the lower economic strata) spent on their legal aid. This also means that they are unable to report the harassment they undergo and are virtually abandoned and at the mercy of the jail staff.

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Updated On : 27th Aug, 2017
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