KARACHI: The importance of women knowing and understanding the law and their legal rights was highlighted during a special programme, ‘Recognising Rights of Women in Prison’ organised by the Committee for the Welfare of Prisoners-Legal Aid Office (CWP-LAO), women development department Sindh, prisons department and UN Women at the Women’s Prison here on Friday.
Nazia Rasheed, Fauzia Shafiq, Fiza Jafri, Nighat Naqvi and Asiya Imran, five women inmates, said that they were performing a skit in the form of a live talk show on the stage.
But as they spoke it became evident that they were sharing their actual experience of imprisonment with the audience. Nazia played the talk-show host who asked each of the other four about how they came to be in jail and how it has been for them there.
“I was jailed some six years ago. During this time, I not only learned to stitch clothes, I also learned about my rights,” said Fauzia.
Fiza, another prisoner, said that when she was arrested in 2015, she did not know about the rights of a common citizen but now she knows much about them.
“I realised that mothers in jail can keep their children until they attain the age of eight. And after that, if they don’t have anyone to watch over them in their family, the children are sent to SOS villages until the mother’s sentence is complete,” she said.
“There are several other facilities on offer that you feel like you are in a hostel, not jail,” she added.
“Adjusting in jail was tough initially. I also want to tell you that our children are innocent victims,” said Nighat, a senior inmate.
Asiya became emotional as she shared that she was initially illiterate but she learnt to read, write and use the computer in jail.
Earlier, SSP Sheeba Shah, superintendent of the Women’s Jail, in her welcome address, said they provide vocational education to the prisoners so that they can earn their livelihood once they are out of jail.
UN women country representative Jamshed M. Kazi said there were around 3,500 women prisoners in the 22 women prisons of Sindh.
Nuzhat Shirin, chairperson, Sindh Commission on the Status of Women, said there was a need for legislation to help women in distress and punish the culprits.
Irum Khalid, Special Assistant to the Chief Minister on Women Development, said the government had already made sure that the children of inmates receive good education.
Haya Eman Zahid, executive director of CWP-LAO, said that the Legal Aid office at the Central Jail was set up in 2004.
Haroon Ahmed, secretary, women development, gave the vote of thanks.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2018