Pregnant Women, Nursing Mothers, and Babies in Prison

Rule 22 of the Bangkok Rules affirms that “ punishment by close confinement or disciplinary segregation shall not be applied to pregnant women, women with infants and breastfeeding mothers in prison” Also, Rule 57 says that” the provisions of the Toyo Rules shall guide the development and implementation of appropriate responses to women offenders.

Gender-specific options for diversionary measures and pre-trial and sentencing alternatives shall be developed with Member States’ legal systems, taking account of the history of victimization of many women offenders and their care-taking responsibilities”. While Rule 60 sums it up that “appropriate resources shall be made available to devise suitable alternatives for women offenders in order to combine non-custodial measures with interventions to address the most common problems leading to women’s contact with the criminal justice system. These may include therapeutic courses and counseling for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse; suitable treatment for those with mental disability; and educational and training programmes to improve employment prospects. Such programmes shall take account of the need to provide care for children and women-only services”.

Clearly, this is not the case in Nigeria, where female prisoners and detainees do not have access to these services and programs and are locked up in facilities built for men. Most of the facilities are deplorable.

Also, the number of pregnant women and nursing mothers in prison continues to grow, resulting in an alarming number of children living in prisons with a parent on the continent. According to the United States Human Rights Reports in 2010, there were more than 300 children in prison with their parents in Nigeria, most of whom were born there, a report the Nigeria authority denied. CURE-Nigeria was able to get skeletal information on 51 of these children in the same year. The numbers must have either declined or increased by now.

The survey was conducted in six States, namely – the FCT, Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Niger, and Plateau, to gather statistics on women convicts and detainees as well as on children living in prison with a mother, with the aim of creating awareness on women and children in prison and using this survey to advocate the development and adoption of national a women-friendly justice policy, particularly pregnant and nursing mothers. The policy will seek alternative sentencing for this category of women offenders and detainees.

Here is the link to the published report of the first phase of the survey; PRISON-SURVEY-REPORT.pdf

Also, the second phase of the survey has been conducted in the Female Prison Kirikiri, Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Enugu prisons. The report of the findings has been published and can be found in the link below.

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