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Anupma Kaushik. Political Science, Banasthali University Rajasthan, India

Human Right of Medical Care for Women Prisoners in India: A study of Jaipur Central Prison for Women

The constitution of India guarantees equality to women and various laws have been enacted to protect and empower women.  Some women have definitely benefited from these.  However, for majority of poor and illiterate women the biased attitude of patriarchal, traditional and feudal Indian society does not offer many opportunities.  The situation worsens if such women are also prisoners, for then they get branded as ‘bad women’ deserving bad treatment.

There are no specific provisions of prisoner’s rights in the constitution of India, but they are subsumed in the fundamental rights.  Moreover, various rules have been enacted from time to time which stress on welfare of prisoners including providing medical facilities to them.

These rules stipulate that the responsibility of health and treatment of prisoners rests with the medical officer and the medical officer will do complete physical and mental medical examination of prisoners at the time of admission of prisoner in the prison.  She will inform the Superintendent of Prison about health, illness, pregnancy, special diet and ability to work of the prisoner.  Ill prisoners will be regularly examined by Medical officer and shifted to prison hospital or government hospital for check up and treatment.  If necessary a mental patient prisoner may be shifted to mental hospital or can be released temporarily for 15 days and state government can be requested for a pardon.

In our case study of Jaipur Central Prison for Women, in Rajasthan, we found that a female doctor and an assistant have been provided by the government to look after the medical needs of the prisoners.  There was also a 6-bed dispensary and all medical expenses of prisoners were borne by the government.

However, conditions were far from satisfactory.  There were 167 total convicted prisoners but we were allowed to contact only 150 prisoners. Out of 150 prisoners 98 i.e. 65.33% were dissatisfied with medical facilities.  As per the dissatisfied prisoners they do not get enough medicines and are not referred to government doctor. Similarly 96 i.e. 64% prisoners were dissatisfied with the behavior of the doctor (doctor was changed while our study was on) who does not touch the prisoners and verbally abuses them.  Prisoners also complained that influential prisoners stay in the dispensary and get special diet while ill patients rest on the floor. A few seriously ill prisoners were totally neglected.  For example a 65-year-old woman Krishna, sentenced for life, was suffering from leprosy but was not getting proper treatment.  Another woman named Kedar, 26 years old, had heart ailment but was termed insane and was given sleeping pills and some medicines, which she said are causing her loss of mental control.

Hence it was quite clear that laws are not properly implemented for the benefit of the prisoners.  The major reason for this was ‘corruption’ and ‘attitude’ of officials who

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