International Women’s Day, the struggles of female reformed convicts


Special Prison for Women, Hyderabad.

Special Prison for Women, Hyderabad.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

International Women’s Day, when the world celebrates female empowerment and achievements, a spotlight turns to a segment often overlooked: women behind bars. While significant progress has been made in gender equality, the unique challenges faced by incarcerated women are a stark reality.

Telangana has about 6% women prisoners, of which over 60% are engaged in various skill development and vocational training, said the Director General of Telangana State Prisons and Correctional Services Soumya Mishra.

Seven years ago, Telangana State Prisons Department inaugurated an All-Women Indian Oil Petrol Bunk to rehabilitate women prisoners and help their journey of self-reliance. While the job provides them financial support, it does not necessarily address the personal and social challenges they are faced with on an everyday basis, a person working closely with a reformed prisoner said.

“Life for a woman prisoner can be challenging, impacting relationships with family due to physical separation, limited communication and stigma,” underscored Ms. Mishra.

According to Ms. Mishra, most of the women prisoners are mothers, who are not able to provide their children the support, love and care they need in their tender age. “This leads to a sense of guilt and detachment among women prisoners while this can also affect the child’s future,” said Dr. Beena Chintalapuri, a retired Professor of Psychology at Osmania University who counsels and conducts cognitive and behavioural skill based programs in jails.

There have been many cases where women prisoners have attempted suicide after they’re released, owing to the social stigma and pressure from the families, Ms. Chintalapuri said, underlining the urgent need for addressing mental health support for women.

“There is a sense of remorse and prisoners often find it difficult to accept what they have landed themselves into,” Ms. Chintalapuri said, adding that it is essential to bring them out of that loop and look at the brighter side.

“Economic factors, family dynamics, cultural norms and domestic violence are the major reasons for women’s involvement in criminal activities over the years,” Ms. Mishra said. Efforts are underway to promote gender equality, raise awareness and improve access to justice for women, she added. 

Challenges exist

“Current skill development programs do not excite the prisoners. With the skills imparted to them in the jails currently, these reformed prisoners cannot enter the massive market,” Ms. Chintalapuri said.

Specific training for altering toxic characteristic traits like anger, rekindling relationships with children and other family members and imparting better decision making among women prisoners can be beneficial in helping them smoothly transition into a normal life after they are released, Ms. Chintalapuri suggested. 

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