Consortium for Civil Society Organizations
The Consortium Overview of Human Rights Conditions for Female Prisoners and their Circumstantial Children
AGE Justice International (Lead Organization) Executive Director: Phillimon Phiri
On 13th February, 2014 at Neem Park Court Yard, 56 Jameson Avenue, behind Neem Park Primary School, KABWE
My dear partners in social and public services; I am pleased to see that you accepted our invitation and you are here today at this dialogue meeting were, as a consortium of Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders in Kabwe, Central Province are discussing human rights conditions of female prisoners and their circumstantial children. It is high time that we, as a country Zambia, in this year of jubilee when we are celebrating our 50 years of independence, consider seriously the conditions under which our mothers, sisters, nieces, and our girl children are living in in our Zambian prisons. It is a fact that the conditions surrounding female prisoners; especially those that are incarcerated whilst pregnant, with children in prisons and indeed the children who are in prisons together with their mothers are not pleasing and are not friendly to human rights enjoyment.
Allow me at this time to introduce my organization which is a led organization in this consortium. My organization is known as Advocacy for Good Governance, gender Equity and Justice International (herein and thereafter being referred to as “AGE Justice International”) which was established in 2010. It is a Civil Society Organization (CSO) dedicated to the influencing of the formulation and promotion of good governance policies based on the Principles of Social and Economic Justice, Individual freedoms and Rule of Law.
My organization vision is to see a society where people live in peace, enjoy good governance and all fundamental human rights. Our mission is Working to ensure Good Governance, Economic and Social Justice through research, consultancy, advocacy and public awareness raising.
Today; we have four (4) civil society organizations (namely AGE Justice International, Samaritan Strategy Foundation of Zambia, Nkhosa Transformation Development Trust, and Association for Restoration of Orphans and Street Children, all based on the Copperbelt but with branches in some selected provinces, that have teamed up; and together have studied the Commission of Human Rights reports and recommendations of 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; have also studied the American Embassy human rights reports and recommendations on Zambia of 2011 and 2012, have also studied and looked at the recent Universal Peer Review Report on Zambia human right status; and the recommendations surrounding human rights by Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) Presentation at the CSO/PF Workshop Held at Cresta Golf view Hotel on 12 and 13th April, 2012.
After the work of studying the various reports and recommendations, and after an intensive human right study and research on our Zambian Prison Act in relationship to conditions surrounding female prisoners and their circumstantial children and indeed what has been enshrined in 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to which Zambia is a signatory, the Consortium of the above four (4) mentioned civil society organizations lead by AGE Justice International have developed a Joint Policy Action Support program that will Influencing policy engagement, implementation and community response on human rights for female prisoners and their circumstantial children.
My dear invited guest; The consortium has come up with activities that will supplement government efforts in addressing the prisons condition of female inmates and their circumstantial children; and a possible review of Prison Act 56 of 1965 and 1966.
My dear invited quest; Zambia has a prison population of approximately 17,700 with a total of 1,316 women inmates, representing 3 percent, in prison cells built to accommodate only 5,700 inmates. Of this, 412 circumstantial children from the age of breastfeeding infants to five are ´incarcerated´ with their mothers (C. Mumba, 2013, Universal access to treatment and human rights: circumstantial children in Zambian prisons a vulnerable population). Studies have shown that although women prisoners still remain the minority, their needs, and indeed their rights and those of their circumstantial children, are frequently not fulfilled in our Zambian Prisons that are designed predominantly for male prisoners.
Discrimination straight away flows from a lack of women-orientated programming and facilities. And some of their rights can only be met if a woman oriented facility and programming is embarked on. Just to highlight a few areas of our concern;
As was reported by Times of Zambia (Fri 12 April 2013) by Fridah Nkonde, Zambia Prisons Service Lusaka province regional commander Chrispin Kaonga in his own words said “Sleeping conditions at Lusaka Central Prison do not provide incarcerated mothers and their children space that is safe and secure… Babies are delicate and required environments that were clean and conducive”. Women in Zambian prisons live in conditions of severe overcrowding. Zambian prisons are over 300 percent of capacity, and 3 to 4 female prisoners in same cases are often reported to be sleep on one mattress packed together in unventilated cells with young children and the sick.
Health care and food supplies,
My invited guests, Zambia 2012 Human Rights Report by the American Embassy discloses that overcrowding, poor sanitation, dilapidated infrastructure, meager food supplies and lack of potable water resulted in serious outbreak of dysentery, cholera and tuberculosis in Zambian prisons. Many prisoners were malnourished because they received only one serving of cornmeal and beans per day, called a combined meal because it represented breakfast, lunch and dinner (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, United States Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour).
The above picture, My invited quests, points to the fact that food provided by the government to prisoners is insufficient and nutritionally inadequate. In most cases prisoners rely on their relatives to supplement the meager food rations or trade work for food.
It is worthwhile to mention in this meeting that Zambia Prisons Service does not provide female inmates with basic necessities including soap, toothpaste, or sanitary pads; and these have been left to the public resources. International standards dictate that for women in detention, there shall be “special accommodation for all necessary prenatal and postnatal care and treatment”. Zambia Prisons Service policy requires that “Women inmates, including those who are HIV infected, should receive…provision of antenatal care services as offered to all women in the general population”. But although prenatal care is widely available in the Zambian general population, for the incarcerated pregnant women it is inadequate, and in some cases non-existent.
The World Health Organization (WHO) protocol for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV notes that “all HIV-infected pregnant women who are not in need of ART (antiretroviral therapy for HIV treatment) for their own health require an effective ARV prophylaxis strategy to prevent HIV transmission to the infant. In Zambia, it looks like there is no official PMTCT program under the prison medical directorate, though PMTCT programmes have been scaled up in recent years in the general population.
Despite international standards calling for special provision for children incarcerated with their mothers, and Zambian law (Prison Act 56), which stated that, “the infant child (up to the age of four years) of a woman prisoner may be received into the prison with its mother and may be supplied with clothing and necessaries at public expense”, the Prison Service allocates no food to children who live with their mothers in prison facilities. In situations where women prisoners are unable to breastfeed, the prison does not offer infant formula because there is no budgetary allocation for such needs.
Water and Sanitation
My dear invited guests, Water and sanitation in our Zambian prisons, especially for the female inmates and their circumstantial children, is of our great concern. Generally sanitation and hygiene are poor, and water frequently unclean. In some cases sanitary conditions are not even children nor disability friendly.
Lack of family contact
My dear invited guests, for your own information; in Zambia we have only two official prisons for women. These are Kamfinsa State prison in Kitwe and Mukobeko Medium Prison in Kabwe. Because there are far fewer women’s prisons, women tend to be imprisoned further away from their homes and families than do male prisoners, making it more difficult for them to maintain family contact. Female prisoners are moved from their areas of residences to State Prisons and this contributes to their denial of family contact.
Maintaining family contact can have important benefits for all prisoners, but takes on particular significance for women who are the primary or sole carer of children and, as mentioned previously, most women in prison are mothers: female prisoners have access to their basic rights, including the right to family visits. It is important that the right to family visits is recognised as such and that this is taken to include a prohibition on punitive denial of family contact, as this can violate the rights of prisoners and the rights of their children.
It is clear from what has been pointed out that the needs of women prisoners are often overlooked by penal institutions, by governmental policy makers and even were the policy clearly states the way things should be implementation is often lacking.
As a consortium of Civil Society organizations, we strongly contend that the imprisonment of a woman who is a mother or pregnant leads to the violation not only of her rights but also the rights of her children or the infant. Prisons are not a safe place for pregnant women, babies and young children and it is not advisable to separate babies and young children from their mother. There are no simple solutions but the complexity of the situation cannot be an excuse for failing to protect the rights of both the woman and children who have a parent in prison. The Southern African Development Community Protocol on Gender and Development, which Zambia has signed, commits states by 2015 to “ensure the provision of hygiene and sanitary facilities and nutritional needs of women including women in prison”.
My invited guests, the consortium only cannot get better results; but it needs other partners like all of you present and those that have a responsibility to promote and protect these human rights, to work together for our better Zambia and world.
With all that I have said; my I simple say thank you for listening and indeed help us to find a better answer to all these human rights conditions being faced by female prisoners. From my yesterday’s discussions with our outreach person and organizer of this dialogue meeting being held today who is also coming from the Energizer Prison Fellowship Mr. Jabes Phiri; most of the incarcerated women are being convicted on trivial cases to which their male counterparts would not in be prisoned because they may have resources and conditions to sought them outside judicial systems.