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Women are discriminated against even inside prisons

The decision by Tihar authorities to launch a semi-open jail inside the complex for women inmates is a good move

analysis Updated: Aug 14, 2018 18:41 IST
An inmate at Tihar Jail, the largest complex of prisons in South Asia, makes decorations for an event to mark International Women's Day in New Delhi, India March 7(REUTERS)

The month of August has brought cheer on the faces of six women inmates lodged in Tihar. For the first time in the history of Tihar, women inmates who have completed 12 years of imprisonment with a good track record are expecting to be transferred to the semi-open jail within the premises of the Tihar complex. Tihar is the largest prison complex in South Asia and is one of the most over-crowded of prisons in India.

There are about 570 women prisoners lodged in Tihar of which 125 are convicts. Inmates who will now be shifted to the new jail will help run the system of the same jail without constant surveillance of the staff. These women will be allowed to move freely within the prison complex but will not be allowed to leave the prison complex unlike the inmates who are shifted to the open jail. If any prisoner defies the law, the jail will have the right to send them back to the regular prison.

The data released by the National Crime Records Bureau in 2015 reveal that out of nearly 3,800 inmates in open prisons, only 109 are women. There are 63 open jails in India, out of which only four are for women. These are located in Yerawada, Thiruvanathapuram and in Durgapura and Sanganer. This itself is a testimony of how we treat women behind bars too.

Delhi is the third state after Rajasthan and Maharashtra to start a semi-open jail for women. The logic behind the semi-open jail or an open-jail is to help the inmates gradually get back into society before their release. These set of jails operate without having rigid walls and provide adequate freedom to the inmates to start a new chapter of their life. While in a semi-open jail the prisoner is not permitted to leave the prison, an open-jail opens its gates for the inmates to spent the entire day outside and come back by the end of the day. In many circumstances, they are even permitted to stay with their families. This system is immensely helpful in reforming and rehabilitating the inmates.

While the action taken by Tihar authorities is a welcome step, we cannot ignore the fact that women are discriminated against even inside the prisons. Before the intervention by the courts, prison authorities almost all across India felt that opening of spaces for women inmates will bring with it multiple problems. Their arguments ignored the fact that disallowing eligible women to enter into the open jails will bring in tougher situations for those who have already reached the last leg of their punishment term and are reformed and certainly deserve to live a better life in the same manner as it is allowed to their male counterparts.

It seems we still have to walk a long way in bringing in the shades of equality for women. Delhi’s Tihar can act as the torchbearer for other states by setting an example of justice, neutrality and fairness. After all, Tihar is seen as a model jail and being at the centre, has always been a newsmaker with different shades of news reaching the news desks.

Vartika Nanda is a prison reformer and is the founder of Tinka Tinka series dedicated to prison reforms in India

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Aug 14, 2018 18:41 IST