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News - September 12, 2013

Lebanon: Women’s Prisons Are Worse

From healthcare to legal aid, reports reveal a tragic reality experienced by female prisoners in Lebanon that surpasses that of their male counterparts.

Although inhumane conditions in Lebanon’s prisons have received more attention over the past few years, women’s prison conditions did not receive the same kind of interest.

Several NGOs have undertaken a project recently to strengthen human rights policies in Lebanon’s prisons. The project aims to improve conditions in the country’s female prisons according to international standards of human rights, according to Rudolf Gebrayel of Diakonia, one of the groups involved in the project. Other groups involved include: the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering (RDFL), Caritas Lebanon, and Dar al-Amal, with the support of the EU Commission and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

The project, which will be implemented over a period of 30 months, targets female prisoners, prison guards, and the staff working at the four female prisons in Baabda, Tripoli, Zahle, and Beirut.

Already, the project has prepared in-depth legal reports on the female prison system in Lebanon.As Lebanon’s five-year plan to transfer the administration of prisons from the Interior Ministry to the Justice Ministry concludes without achieving the actual transition, partners in the project have defined set out to achieve a number of tasks, most prominent being improving the qualifications of prison authorities and ensuring prisoner access to legal and social support.

Attorney Manar Zaayter of RDFL presented two reports on prison conditions, which vary greatly from prison to prison, at a recent workshop in Beirut. Zaayter pointed out the unavailability of gynecologists, with the exception of the Baabda Prison, which only began providing this service recently. At the Zahle and Barbar al-Khazen prisons, a nurse is available all day long, whereas at Baabda, a nurse is available only for half a shift.

Her reports indicate that prison meals are not nutritionally adequate and that pregnant women are not provided with special food during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Female prisoners are allowed to shower only three times a week and their needs of sanitary pads are not satisfied. Toilets are not separated from the sleeping area in Baabda and are only slightly separated in Zahle.

Workshop attendees recommended that prison authorities take into account the health needs of female prisoners, provide better and more food, as well as sanitary pads, towels, and clothes.

Source: Al-akhbar – English

By: Bassam Alkantar