Punjab’s head of prisons Shashi Kant has sent a proposal to the state government seeking permission to allow select male inmates to have sex with their partners in a designated area of the jail. If the proposal is cleared, Punjab will become the first state to allow sex in prison.
“The proposal is part of the jails reforms programme in Punjab. Sex is a basic need like food and lack of it can give rise to unprotected sex among male prisoners,” said Kant, DGP (prisons). Several prisons worldwide allow conjugal visits on this very premise.
As in other states, jails in Punjab are no stranger to unprotected sex among inmates, reports of which appear from time to time.
As per the proposal, the inmates would be allowed conjugal visits only by a legal spouse. Applications by prisoners would be screened and cleared on the basis of their character, behaviour in jail and punishment terms.
“Only those serving long punishment, including life imprisonment, and those who have shown good behaviour would be eligible. Prisoners must not have indulged in any illegal activity inside jail,” said the DGP.
The proposal states that special houses will be constructed inside jail premises to ensure privacy to inmates during conjugal visits.
Already, a petition by a prisoner is pending in the Punjab and Haryana high court in Chandigarh, seeking permission to stay with his wife in the jail.
Welcoming the proposal of conjugal visits in state prisons, high court senior advocate Anupam Gupta, appointed amicus curiae by the court for preparing a detailed report on the issue, said allowing such visits would be an important step in reforming prisons in Punjab.
“The condition of jails in Punjab is deplorable. This move of the government may do good to prisoners who otherwise deteriorate within prison walls,” said Gupta. There are 27 jails, including seven central jails, with 20,000 inmates in Punjab. The state recently initiated reforms in jails which are over-burdened and various inquiry reports have pointed out that prisoners live in deplorable conditions.
Allowing prisoners conjugal visits might seem at first sight like a bizarre idea, but it is actually a very welcome development. After all, when conjugal rights are denied to the ‘criminal’ in jail, they are also denied to his or her spouse, who has done nothing to deserve such treatment. The logic of this become even stronger in a country like India where many are forced by their families to marry at a very young age and have no say in determining who they will marry. Other states should also consider taking up this idea. In a liberal society, prisoners too are treated humanely and this would be a step in that direction.