Children of Women Prisoners Receive Little Education, Institutional Support: Govt Survey

Children of women prisoners in Indian jails face several struggles that impede their access to education, according to a new report by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). The study surveys both children living in jails with their mothers as well as children in institutional care; and highlighted the gaps in physiological and emotional care towards children.

“These children, with no fault of their own, are forced to live in prisons, depriving them of not just a normal childhood…but also [their] rights,” writes Priyank Kanoongo, chairperson of the NCPCR. “Despite several reforms and implementations of guidelines and progressive legislations based on universally recognized standards and principles, children of women prisoners continue to form the most vulnerable section of our society.”

NCPCR is a statutory body under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Their study involved surveying eight jails in Lucknow, Ghaziabad, Rajahmundry, Kadapa, Patna, Muzaffarpur, Mumbai, and Pune; and childcare institutes in Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh.

The findings suggest that access to and quality of education remains a paramount concern: 6% of the children interviewed said they had no means of schooling; whereas 85% were found to be enrolled in schools near where they lived, and 9% studied under the National Institute of Open Schooling. Out of those who go to schools, many actively face bullying from other students because of the stigma around their mothers being in jail. Children who lived with unique needs, like cerebral palsy that require special care, did not have access to institutions or training to assist with their education.


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The study further highlighted that 43% of the women interviewed did not know about the course material taught to children in prison creches and local anganwadi groups; a similar proportion was also unaware of if the course material was age-appropriate. Around 14% of women also stated that their children were not receiving instruction in their native languages.

Several women overall highlighted the challenges of communicating with their families while sentenced to jails outside their own home state — making it harder for mothers to look after their children. Irregular meetings between mothers and children also remained a concern of the study: 60% of the survey respondents said that visits from their children were erratic, and 13% said they had never met their children while in prison. This is despite Supreme Court guidelines that mandate children can meet their mothers at least once a week. In reality, many say that the reason behind this non-compliance was that the children’s institutions (schools/homes/hostels) were far away from the prison.

The researchers put forth several recommendations to fix the problems: these include appointing psychologists and counselors to ensure care for children with special needs; ensuring that children receive admissions in government-run schools near where their parent is housed.

They also pushed for robust implementation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, which is a legal intervention to protect the interests of vulnerable children. The researchers note that increased supervision of the Child Welfare Committee, formed under the JJ Act, could help safeguard children’s rights.

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