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Lives of Indian Women Prisoners

  • Published
    9th Sep, 2022

Recently, the Supreme Court of India granted interim bail to activist Teesta Setalvad stating that the relief of interim bail is granted in the peculiar facts that the appellant happens to ‘be a lady’.

This brief aims to analyse the Lives of India’s Women Prisoners and how do they become a forgotten and shunned part of Indian society.

  • Supreme Court had referred to a provision that says being a woman is a possible ground for granting bail, even when otherwise it cannot be considered.
  • Bail is the conditional/provisional release of a person held under legal custody (in matters which are yet to be pronounced by the Court), by undertaking a promise to appear in the Court as and when required.
  • It signifies a security/collateral deposited before the Court for release.
  • Section 437 of the CrPC deals with bail in case of non-bailable offences.
    • A person shall not be released on bail if there is reasonable ground to believe that he has committed an offence punishable with death or life imprisonment; or, if he has been previously been convicted for an offence punishable with death, life imprisonment.

What are the special conditions for women allowing Bail?

  • When the woman is a victim of sexual offence or associated to such case of any age.
  • If arrested in terms for presenting as
  • Physically disabled women and suffering from mental disorders are acquainted to relief from arrests.
  • Under Section 437 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), a woman is entitled to favourable treatment.

Do you Know?

When a police officer requires the attendance of any person who he believes is acquainted with a case under investigation, the person has to appear before the officer (Section 160). However, no woman shall be required to do so at any place other than the place in which she resides.

Need for Special Provisions



  • Due to Vulnerability of Women
  • Fundamental Rights of women: The Constitution of India guarantees the “right to equality” to women and prohibits unreasonable discrimination between persons.
  • India is a signatory to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.


  • Easy escape provisions for Women against Crime
  • Real Suspect can misuse the women for criminal activities.
  • Less Judged and easy bail.

Other Provisions for women

  • Family Courts Act (1984)provides for establishment of Family Courts for speedy settlement of family disputes.
  • Indian Penal Code (1860)contains provisions to protect Indian women from dowry death, rape, kidnapping, cruelty and other offences.
  • Code of Criminal Procedure (1973)has safeguards for women like obligation of a person to maintain his wife, arrest of woman by female police and so on.

Issues faced by women prisoners

  • Complete lack of privacy
  • They bear the brunt of a stigma
  • Lack of hygiene and sanitation
  • Overcrowding
  • Small number of open prison
  • Class, caste, religion and nationality have a big say in the women’s potential prison experience
  • Physical and mental health of prisoners often suffers.
  • Female prisoners are housed in smaller enclosures within men’s prisons – a prison within a prison

Of the 1,350 prisons in India, just 31 are reserved for women, and only 15 states and union territories have separate women’s jails. 

Ways to help women prisoners

  • A liberal application of bail
  • Easier access to legal help
  • Special fast-track courts and rehabilitation facilities
  • Adequate healthcare, humane treatment, preserving dignity during searches and protection from violence
  • Special consideration for women is required but under the legal framework.
  • Investigations regarding women needs sensitization.
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