Punjab jail inmates can now have sex with spouses

News Desk : dhakamirror.com

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Punjab is the first Indian state to legalize conjugal visits, and a 60-year-old convicted killer was the first to obtain this facility in Punjab Goindwal Jail, reports BBC Online.

Gurjeet Singh, who has been in Goindwal Jail in Tarn Taran for months, told the BBC he was “lonely and unhappy” in jail and that he felt “relief when I was permitted to see my wife in private”

Prison officials in Punjab said good-behaved inmates would be given two-hour visits every two months.

Since then, over 1,000 convicts in the state have requested such visits, and roughly half have transpired.

In several Indian provinces, such as Rajasthan and Maharashtra, good-behaving inmates are allowed to stay in open prisons with their families. Courts across the country have often given inmates leave for “procreation” or “maintaining marital ties,” says Supreme Court advocate Sunil Singh.

A majority of the more than half a million prisoners in the country can go years without seeing their spouses, he adds.

With the launch of the new scheme last month, Punjab became the first Indian state to allow such meetings inside jails.

Jails participating in the scheme have been requested to put up a room with a bed and an attached bathroom to provide a pair some solitude. The government decree says a married couple can have sexual intercourse, and in some jails, condoms are also provided.

Senior jail department official Harpreet Sidhu told the BBC the decision “was adopted to keep convicts’ stress levels in check and to enable their re-entry into society” and that “conjugal visits for sexual intercourse fulfill a basic biological demand.”

Russia, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Philippines, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, and some US states allow conjugal visits. Israel and Brazil even allow same-sex partners.

But “Indian prisons don’t allow inmates to touch visitors.” says Lawyer Amit Sahni.

Also, Mr Sahni adds, “It’s okay to punish a criminal, but what about an innocent partner or spouse? Why is her right being taken away?”

The Punjab decree outlines which prisoners are not allowed conjugal visits and gives priority to those who have spent a long time in jail without parole. Those not allowed, includes:

High-risk prisoners, gangsters and terrorists
Those jailed for child abuse, sexual crimes or domestic violence
Prisoners suffering from infectious disease like tuberculosis, HIV or sexually transmitted diseases unless cleared by the prison doctor
Those who haven’t been carrying out their duties properly for the past three months
Those who haven’t shown good conduct and discipline, as determined by the superintendent

Superintendent Lalit Kohli, who approves conjugal visits at the high-security Goindwal jail near the Pakistan border, says once a couple is inside, the door is closed from the outside and all windows and escape points are blocked.

“Most couples spend an hour of their two-hour limit. They can ring a bell to call for help “Mr. Kohli said, adding that the convicts love the program.

Joga Singh, 37, an undertrial accused of cheating, claimed he was “emotionally distressed” from not seeing his family for months but was hesitant to invite his wife to visit because he was apprehensive about how prison staff would treat them.

“But it went well and the meeting made me happy,” he remarked.

Critics of the government decree argue jails are there for punishment and permitting conjugal visits damages victims and their families.

Advocate Amit Sahni says conjugal visits should be allowed in all Indian jails as a step toward reforming inmates.

“The objective of justice is not merely to punish inmates, but also to reform them so they can reintegrate into society.”

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