The article 'Problems faced by female accused in prisons' is a detailed scrutiny of the sorrowful state of female accused and the lack of basic essential facilities.

The article 'Problems faced by female accused in prisons' is a detailed scrutiny of the sorrowful state of female accused and the lack of basic essential facilities. The author agonizes over various issues and shares opinions that certain reforms are necessary for the female accused in prisons.


The Woman is a creation of God who needs care very much. In the Indian prison system, there are various provisions which deal with the protection of women, such as the separation of male and female accused/prisoners. But despite all these laws and regulations, female accused in prison have been facing so many problems. According to the reports of NCRB, jails in India are overcrowded. This is the biggest problem. Even the prisoners are not getting proper facilities for basic needs. The female accused is also facing various problems like lack of sanitary napkins during mensuration. Even the majority of women do not know their legal as well as fundamental rights.

1) Lack of Female Prisons:

According to NCRB reports of the year 2019, there are a total of 1,350 prisons in India. There are 617 sub-jails, 410 District jails, 86 open Jails, 144 central jails, 41 special jails, 31 women's jails, 19 borstal schools and 2 others than the above jails in India. The lack of women's prisons is the biggest problem faced by the female accused. In the majority of the cases, undertrial female accused is detained in a jail where both male and female lives, sometimes the cells are separate but female prisoners feel uncomfortable. According to Prison Statistics India 2019, At the end of the year 2019, a total of 19,913 female prisoners were held across 1,350 jails in India. A vast majority of female prisoners throughout the country are confined in small detention cells within male prisons. Out of the total arrested female prisoners, only 18% (3650 women) were confined in female prisons.

2) Poor Living Standards and Overcrowding in Prisons:

This is the most common problem faced by both male and female prisoners. In Indian jails, the size of cells and barracks is prescribed by the guidelines of the National Prison Manual. The barracks are only for twenty people, but due to the issue of overcrowding, it seems impossible because most of them are under trial. Overcrowding is a serious issue, it leads to worse hygiene conditions and health issues and the infection spreads quickly. Overcrowding also leads to severe mental effects on accused persons who are forced to live in crowded jails.

Young female offenders between the ages of 18 – 21 years must be kept separate. But in most cases, they are found with habitual offenders. It leads them to the world of crime and makes them habitual offenders also. Due to overcrowding, the children of prisoners live in undesirable conditions. Convicted and undertrial prisoners, should be housed in separate jails, but it is not possible due to the lack of prisons.

According to a report of the World Prison Brief of the year 2019, in India, the total capacity of the prison system to keep prisoners is 403739, but 478600 prisoners are lodged there. This fact shows that Indian jails are crowded with prisoners and a majority of them are undertrial.

3) Lack of Basic Facilities like sanitation and hygiene:

In India, most of the female accused are young, they come in the age group of 18 - 55 years. Most of them fall under the menstruation age group. During the menstruation period, female accused should be provided with proper sanitation facilities with proper menstrual hygienic products. To maintain hygiene, female accused should be provided with sanitary pads etc. But it is alleged by the female accused that jail officials charge for sanitary pads. Lack of sanitary pads leads to the use of unhygienic means like cloth, newspaper etc.

A prison visit by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has revealed poor infrastructure in female facilities. CHRI has also revealed limited sanitary products to ensure proper menstrual hygiene during the menstruation period. In 2019 according to reports of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Inside Haryana prisons highlighted about lack of awareness among women in prison about their rights. CHRI’s report also revealed that females were not aware of the provision that police authorities are duty-bound to provide them with sanitary napkins. In some prisons, females either get sanitary napkins from the canteen in the jail by paying money or manage by using old cloth and rags. It is the real concern of their menstrual hygiene.

Women prisoners have also told to CHRI that, most of the time, they have to depend upon family members to get quality sanitary napkins during their visits. During family meeting time they get sanitary napkins from family members. They also said that they feel ashamed to ask about napkins when a male family member visits the jail, and they have to use unhygienic methods.

4) Poor spending on the Health and Welfare of Female accused:

In India in 2005, the Government spent an average amount of Rs 10,800 on a prisoner for one year. This money is to be spent under the head on food, medical expenses, clothing, education and other activities. In 2005, the state of West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, UP, and Bihar spent higher on medical facilities. On the other hand, states like Karnataka, and Bihar, reportedly spent higher on education. Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh has spent relatively higher on welfare schemes. These statistics show that our government is spending less on prisoners. But the population of our country has crossed 1.35 billion so it would be difficult to manage all these expenses. Government should provide all the basic facilities to female prisoners because they need them.

5) Lack of free legal aid:

The legal rights have been mandated by the Constitution of India for needy under trial accused persons. The Apex Court of India has ordered to provide free legal aid to every person from his arrest. But in reality, legal aid is provided only at the time of trial. In most cases, free legal aid is just for name’s sake. Under Legal Aid Services Authority Act 1987, on the centre level and state levels, legal aid boards have been established to provide free legal services to the poor and improving persons. But in several cases, these boards have failed to provide legal aid due to insufficient knowledge about the accused and due to a lack of coordination between police officials and legal aid authorities. In reality, what the law mandates and what the accused get from legal aid services, there are huge discrepancies between both.

6) Custodial rape and torture:

Women's safety in the prison is the utmost priority of the government as well as jail officials. The law has provided a handful of rights to the female accused against discrimination, torture etc. But manhandling of a female in prison is a very common thing in our country.

In the case of State of Maharashtra v. C. K. Jain, (1990), rape was committed in police custody by the Sub Inspector. The prosecutrix was aged between 19-20 years. In this case, the Sessions Court sentenced the accused SI to 5 years and with a fine of 1000 rupees. But his conviction was set aside by the High Court, and he was acquitted. The matter came to Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court restored the judgement passed by the Sessions Court and sentenced him to imprisonment for a term of five-year and with a fine of Rupees 1,000. The Supreme Court has also observed that there was no room for leniency if the crime was committed by a person in uniform, and the punishment should be exemplary.

In another case of Smt. Rameeza Bee v. D. Armugam, (1978) in this case, the prosecutrix, along with her husband, was arrested by police. Rameeza Bee was a working lady of 26 years of age who was coming back home along with her husband Ahmed Husain, a rickshaw puller by profession. Both were arrested by the police for roaming late the night. Police asked them to pay a fine. Police officials sent Ahmed to get the money from home and kept Rameeza at the police station. Three police officials raped her.

She narrated the whole incident to her husband when he came. Her husband protested against such crime, and police officials mercilessly beat him to death. After this incident riots took place, and four police officials were suspended. A commission was constituted to inquire about the rape of Rameeza and the death of her husband. The commission gave reported that police officials are guilty of rape and murder, and they should be prosecuted. Subsequently, all accused officials were acquitted because all evidence recorded by the commission is inadmissible in the session’s Court.

7) Lack of facilities for children of female accused in jail:

In India, between 2009 – 2019, there were 1586 women accused who were confined in jail with their children. It was 9% of total female prisoners, and 3/4th of them were undertrial. In the year 2019, 1543 female accused had their children with them in prison.

According to some reports, women accused in jail even struggle to get proper food/diet for their children. Children can stay in jail with their mothers till they turn six years of age if there are no suitable situations for their children to live outside. Tihar jail of Delhi is a model jail, a separate female prison is there for female accused. In many jails, female accused are kept in a separate place within the male prisons.

In jail premises, according to the guidelines of Apex Court, a crèche should be provided to take care of children in absence of their parents. But in some of the jails, the crèche facility is not available. Children live in jail premises, even in the absence of their parents. Minor children can come into contact with habitual criminals and develop their mentality according to the situation. The reading environment can be maintained in the jail because children go to school, but after school hours, it is difficult to concentrate on study work etc.

In India, only 5% of female prisoners are in jails. If both mother and father are in jail, their children need care in absence of their parents. Children face difficult circumstances in the absence of their parents. Most of the time, the children of the accused are split up from their mothers in jails or left home alone. In the case of the male accused, children stay with their mother at home. But in the case of the female accused, children live with their father, but due to the earnings of the father, they remain alone in the home in the daytime.

Children should be kept in prison with an environment like home. They should be treated like children, not like the accused. Jail authorities must ensure that every facility should be provided to children, which are provided by the govt for the benefit and development of children. Govt should form committees to make sure that every facility should reach the children in prisons.


The Problems faced by the women accused in jail during the undertrial period are uncountable and many of them remain unsolved. The rights of women prisoners are being violated despite various provisions in the Constitution of India as well as International Conventions. India has taken various steps like prison reforms, jail manuals etc. to protect the right of female accused as well as convicted. But in reality, most of the provisions remain on pages. According to United Nations Human Rights Council, there are 700,000+ women prisoners across the world. In India, there are 18000+ female prisoners in jails. The majority of them live in male prisons because there are fewer female prisons in India. Female accused are even going through various problems like gender discrimination, inhuman treatment towards their children, custodial rape and torture etc. They are living in overcrowded jails in unhygienic conditions.

The lack of female prisoners as well as female staff, is the major problem. According to the law, female accused should be kept in female prisons only. In the case of a male prison, women shall be segregated from male prisoners and kept in different places to prevent any kind of harassment or verbal or physical contact. But due to the lack of female prisons and lack of female staff, women accused are facing problems many problems like custodial rape and torture, manhandling etc.


[1] World Prison Brief Data, Available Here

[2] Period poverty in prisons: Ensuring menstrual hygiene and dignity in India, Available Here

[3] Akshay Goel, Indian Prison System; Case Study of Tihar Jail, Available Here

[4] State of Maharashtra v. C. K. Jain, 1990 AIR 658, 1990 SCR (1) 115.

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Ajay Kumar

Ajay Kumar

LL.M | School of Law, Bahra University, Solan, Himachal Pradesh

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