Women Prisoners Undergo Sexual Abuse in US Prisons, Reports Amnesty

by Jayashree on Aug 11 2008 4:49 PM

 Women Prisoners Undergo Sexual Abuse in US Prisons, Reports Amnesty
The International human rights body, the Amnesty International reports that female inmates of US prisons are prone to sexual abuse by male officers.
The male officers in the US jails ask the female inmates to return sexual favours in lieu of basic facilities extended to them, and most of such instances go unreported, and if reported the offenders are simply transferred to other wards, said the Amnesty report.

"Sexual abuse is virtually a fact of life for incarcerated women in the US," said the report the findings if which are reinforced by a study conducted by the US-based Human Rights Watch, which says that "being a woman prisoner in American prisons can be a terrifying experience."

The Human Rights Watch report found that male correctional employees have vaginally, anally and orally raped female prisoners and sexually assaulted and abused them. It found that in the course of committing such gross misconduct, male officers have not only used actual or threatened physical force, but have also used their near total authority to provide or deny goods and privileges to female prisoners to compel them to have sex or, in other cases, to reward them for having done so.

"There are often male correctional officers watching women undressing and showering. The women are often afraid to report such incidences. Not only do the guards frequently threaten to take away visitation rights to keep them quiet, they also have complete access to each inmate's file, which includes any reports against the guards. If a guard is reported and punished, the punishment usually only consists of his transfer to another facility," the Daily Times quoted the Amnesty report as saying.

According to current estimates, more than 50 per cent of all female prisoners in the US have experienced some form of sexual abuse. The number of women incarcerated in the US is ten times more than in Western Europe, whose female population is equal to that of the US. African-American women are eight times more likely to be incarcerated than white women.

Besides, the rampant sexual abuse, medical neglect is common for women in US prisons. One such example is the failure to treat seriously ill inmates. This includes treatment for diseases ranging from diabetes to AIDS. Another example is the lack of qualified medical personnel in the prisons. This means that frequently non-medical staff is used in medical situations.

In some instances, women have been impregnated as a result of sexual misconduct, and some of these prisoners have faced additional abuse in the form of inappropriate segregation, denial of adequate health care, and/or pressure to seek an abortion, says the Human Rights Watch report.

One of the clear contributing factors to sexual misconduct in US prisons for women is that the US allows male correctional employees to hold contact positions over prisoners, that is, positions in which they serve in constant physical proximity to the prisoners of the opposite sex.

Under the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Standard Minimum Rules), which constitute an authoritative guide to international law regarding the treatment of prisoners, male officers are precluded from holding such contact positions. However, since the passage of the US Civil Rights Act of 1964, US employers have been prohibited from denying a person a job solely on the basis of gender unless the person's gender was reasonably necessary to the performance of the specific job.


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