São Paulo – After 7 years working with the youth rehabilitation system and the adult male prison system in Brazil, and alarmed by the number of cases of torture and degrading treatment of women in the country’s detention centers in recent years, the human rights NGO Conectas has decided in 2012 to give equal priority to the population of 36,000 female prisoners in Brazil (INFOPEN, July 2011), the equivalent of approximately 7% of the entire prison population.
During a meeting at the head office of Conectas this morning, the director of the human rights NGO, Marcos Fuchs, referred to a video aired Tuesday (31/01) on the Record television channel that showed Elisângela Pereira da Silva handcuffed to a hospital bed by her hands and feet in the city of Francisco Morato. “Handcuffing women during childbirth is torture. The case shown in this video is not the first, nor is it an exception. This cruel, degrading and inhumane practice is recurrent in São Paulo. Partner organizations of Conectas, such as [the Catholic Church’s prison care program] Pastoral Carcerária, have gathered numerous accounts of women handcuffed before, during and after childbirth, and prevented from breastfeeding their infants with dignity. Nothing justifies shackling a person,” said Fuchs.
According to Rodolfo Valente, a lawyer for Pastoral Carcerária, “the Brazilian prison system is not the least bit prepared to cope with specific needs of female offenders, which is illustrated by the blatant lack of public policies to provide minimally adequate treatment during pregnancy. The gruesome practice of handcuffing women before, during and immediately after childbirth is yet another symptom of this depravity that is the female prison system”.
The UN, in 2010, adopted the Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners, which prohibits the use of coercive measures before, during and immediately after childbirth. According to the São Paulo Prison Census, 86% of the women imprisoned in the state are mothers. However, the rights of these mothers are routinely disrespected. There are cases of mothers being separated abruptly from their infants and women have no say in what happens to their children. Conectas asserts that policies need to be urgently developed to guarantee and encourage contact between mother and child.