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Nearly half of women prisoners are administrative detainees — study

By Laila Azzeh - Mar 05,2015 - Last updated at Mar 05,2015

AMMAN — Women held in administrative detention constitute 49.5 per cent of female prisoners in Jordan, which is a “significantly” high percentage, according to a study conducted last year.

A total of 233 out of 476 female prisoners at the Jweideh Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre last year were administrative detainees, while at the Umm Al Lulu centre 21 out of the 37 prisoners were under administrative detention, according to the study, conducted by the National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR).

Of the total 513 female inmates held in the two facilities last year, 137 were in judicial custody.

Several women were also held in what is described as “protective custody”, a term used to refer to those spending indefinite time in prison without being convicted of any offence, while sometimes others remain in custody after serving their sentences for their own safety.

While the safety and well-being of women is the motive behind such a measure, experts believe that it violates basic human rights standards that guarantee the safety and security of individuals.

“It is a complicated issue, because women’s right to freedom here overlaps with the right to life. As much as we condemn this measure, we understand where the government is coming from when applying it,” NCHR Chief Commissioner Mousa Burayzat told reporters on Thursday.

The study on the status of women inmates at correctional and rehabilitation centres in the Kingdom revealed many shortcomings, including a halt in vocational training programmes despite the availability of equipped workshops, and failure to abide by the prisoners classification system, which is a main measure to protect them.

“Healthcare provided to women prisoners is still below the international level and their medical reports lack information on their reproductive health, while there are no special programmes for pregnant and breastfeeding women,” said Nahla Momani, who conducted the study for the NCHR.

The shortage of staff at prisons for women is another problem facing rehabilitation centres.

“Also, children’s visits to their mothers in prison are not planned in a way that makes them a positive experience in line with international standards. Inmates receive their children in prison uniform,” Momani said, adding that the frisk and search procedures applied to visiting children are “inappropriate”.

Basel Tarawneh, the government coordinator for human rights, announced a plan to pay field visits to women’s prisons along with civil society organisations.

“We have coordinated with the Interior Ministry and the Public Security Department to plan with civil societies for field visits to women’s prisons in order to check on their situations,” he said.

According to the UN, girls and women are a minority of the prison population across the world, so prisons are largely designed to deal with male offenders although the needs of female prisoners are “very different” from those of men.

In addition, women are also more vulnerable to mental and physical abuse, according to the UN.

All of these reasons have prompted the need for the Bangkok Rules, also known as the “UN Rules for Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders”, which stipulate that women offenders should not be separated from their families and communities without due consideration being given to their backgrounds and family ties.

Jordan has not joined the convention despite efforts exerted in this regard by civil society organisations.

The outcomes of several studies carried out by the NCHR on women were highlighted during the press conference.

Burayzat said studies show that there are still social and cultural factors hindering women’s economic empowerment in remote areas.

Buthaina Freihat, who conducted the study on women’s rights in remote areas, noted that women in 49 villages across Jordan have no actual role in parliamentary and municipal elections apart from voting.

The “low” awareness of women’s rights in these areas, high unemployment rates and insufficient healthcare services are some of the problems revealed by the study.

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