The Consortium of Five Civil Society Organizations has observed that maternity care is a safe and appropriate facility which should be made available to pregnant women in prisons across the country.
The non-governmental organization AGE Justice International Executive Director Philimon Phiri says the Consortium has also called on the Zambian government to uphold the basic human rights of pregnant women in prison by reviewing the whole Prison Act.
Mr Phiri revealed this in a statement made available to ZANIS in Lusaka yesterday following a position paper on the welfare of female inmates adopted by the Consortium at a meeting held last evening.
Mr Phiri said the Consortium the review should accommodate inclusive female and children biological needs which will ensure a minimum standard of care in pregnancy and the postnatal period wherever the woman is within the prison system.
He said this was a basic home care service, education and accommodation of circumstantial children found in a similar situation.
Mr Phiri noted that there is need for the criminal justice system to strengthen the 2009 policy on non-custodial sentences for women with trivial offenses and those who hold a full single parent responsibility on children.
He hinted that there is also concern over the judiciary’s delay in sentencing of pregnant women on trivial cases until they give birth.
He said Section 56 of Prison’s Act provides that the infant child of a woman prisoner may be received into the prison with its mother adding that the Act should be amended to provide for a separate food ration for the infant child.
Mr Phiri suggested that there is an immediate need to review the Prison Act number 56 and make amendments to the Prison Act number 234 to include the diet for circumstantial children, prenatal and breast feeding mothers.
He further said there is an urgent need to decongest prisons in order to work on improved human rights conditions for inmates.
The Consortium observed that 17,038 inmates are incarcerated in prisons that are built to hold 6,100 prisoners only saying this as an abuse of individual human rights and health needs.
The Consortium further noted that there is a need to make flexible conditions for prisoners to apply for a parole.
Mr Phiri also noted that there is an urgent need to further amend Section 56 that clothing and necessaries for the infant child to be supplied not at the public expense but to attribute that responsibility to Prison Authorities, Social Welfare and Mother and Child health Department.
He stated that HIV positive mothers with a low CD4 count should be included in Section 234 diet and add special diet provided with formula milk for their children.
Mr Phiri said that infants should be separated from adult prisoners and the prison service should utilize their carpentry workshops to supply the court beds to the children.
“Government should upgrade the existing clinics in the prisons into hospitals to decongest on the population which has been extended to even outsiders and include maternity wings”, Mr Phir said.
Mr Phiri said government and United Nations Children Emmergency Fund(UNICEF) should extend early childhood education policy for circumstantial children in prison.
And Mr Phir also lamented that prison grants allocated to vulnerable groups in the prison should be increased and specifically cover sanitary pads for women prisoners and circumstantial children’s clothing.
He said working with government and other stakeholders should undertake research on women prisoners in Zambia and their circumstantial children and come up baseline data to enable adequate intervention and information for sustainable interventions