Home » Human Rights » Pregnancy Fears Block Open Female Prison

ACTIVISTS have claimed that a proposed open prison for women is failing to take off because authorities are allegedly concerned that, if released, inmates would likely come back pregnant, creating more problems for an underfunded and overstretched prison service.

An open prison for men was established at Connemara near Gweru in what has been described as a successful pilot programme, prompting calls for a similar facility for women.

Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services (ZPCS) Spokesperson, Chief Superintendent Elizabeth Banda, said while a site has since been identified for the female facility, the department did not have the funds to implement the project.

In an interview with NewZimbabwe.com, Banda said ZPCS was open to donor support to help kick-start the project.

“All the necessary processes have been done and a place called St. Thomas in Marondera town has been identified,” she said.

“What is needed is to renovate the place in line with the open prison system, as the facility has its own challenges that are related to gender roles. So all these issues need to be ironed out and the correctional service has to be prepared for these happenings.

“Everything has been approved but the finances are not there and that’s the hindering factor. There has been a lot of aocacy for that and one need to bear in mind that Connemara open prison for men was a pilot project and it was successful that’s why we need one for women.”

However, Rita Nyamupinga, director of Zimbabwe Female Prisoners Support Trust said the prison service was being disingenuous over the issue.

Nyamupinga claimed the reason there was no progress was because government feared that, once released, some of the women would return to prison pregnant, making the authorities responsible for the care of their children.

The prison service, battling under poor funding by the government and overcrowding, has already admitted struggling to care for inmates convicted with minor children.

But Banda denied the allegations, insisting female prisoners were treated the same as male counterparts.

She said they had looked at other regional and international correctional services to see how female open prisons are managed adding Zimbabwe would be the first to have a pilot project in the SADC region.

Currently there are about 322 female inmates in prisons around the country and but just three woman-friendly prisons at Harare Chikurubi Prison, Shurugwi Prison in the Midlands and Mulondolozi Prison in Bulawayo.

“Most of the women that are detained live attached to male institutions,” said Banda.

“The reason being they cannot all be transferred to the three female prisons and also because they have to be closer to family members and the courts that tried them,” said Banda.

“Society needs to be reminded that when a woman comes to prison they suffer twice that is from breaking the law and being separated from her family – considering at the role that women play in the family.”

Source : New Zimbabwe