Rape in prison is cruel and usual
August 31, 2009 by Yamini Piplani
Sexual violence against inmates shockingly common
In a world where so many are committed to the protection and preservation of basic human rights, the sexual abuse of both male and female prisoners remains an unfortunate, common practice around the world.
In the U.S., the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission reported in June that there were at least 60,000 rapes nationally in the last year. But this seems like just another statistic, as many already know that rape, often accompanied by violence, has been a part of prison life for decades.
However, considering that the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 had into effect preventative measures as well as punishments that should have helped to tackle the issue of the sexual abuse of prisoners, this number is shockingly high.
It seems like demanding sexual favors for simple things like access to cigarettes, or rape for ego, power, and pleasure is more prevalent than we would like to believe.
In a country like the U.S., where the law and the people openly acknowledge the problem, there is necessity for strict enforcement, as fortunately, the structure to tackle the problem is already in place.
But in countries where the law refuses to recognize prison rape, the society marginalizes rape victims and religion and culture are used as facades to justify the rape of women in prison, this horrible attack on human rights is all too common and there is no end in sight, as there is no public support.
There have been cases of sexual abuse of prisoners in countries around the globe – from the U.S. and Canada to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.
Human rights organizations have made progress in changing some things, but unfortunately not even human rights organizations have been able to accurately track these abuses, as many cases go unreported for the fear of marginalization, shame and future threats.
But in countries like Iran, where the issue has finally been brought to light, justice for victims seems to be far away, as the law does not punish such crimes and religion is openly used to justify acts of sexual abuse toward women.
Earlier this month, a reformist cleric in Iran announced that tens of thousands of men and women who were arrested in the election’s aftermath had been raped in prison. Shockingly, the Iranian administration more vehemently denied charges of rape than of torture in general. As if that’s OK.
And, as it almost always happens in pseudo-democracies and non-democracies, the public’s claims of abuse turned into a battle of who can say “I didn’t do it” louder and with more force. Each political group blamed the “enemy” for the sexual abuse.
But Shadi Sadr, a feminist lawyer and journalist, pointed out that such acts of torture have been commonly used against female political prisoners since the 1979 Revolution: “The most systematic type of reported rape has been the rape of virgin girls who were sentenced to death by execution because of political reasons. They were raped on the night before execution.”
It is claimed that if a female prisoner was executed a virgin, she would go to Jannah – paradise. So “in order to lose their virginity, girls were forced to enter into a temporary marriage with men who were in charge of their prison.” What a disgustingly convenient way to gain physical pleasure.
Iran is just one of the hundreds of countries where prisoners are sexually abused. Although there is absolutely no reason acts like this should occur in any country, I am appalled that even the most industrialized countries are on the list, where human rights groups champion their successes.
This either means that this issue has just not been given enough attention or that it is, in fact, an unusually difficult issue to untangle.
Either way, sexual abuse in prisons should be an issue that every government, every non-governmental organization and every human rights group should focus on, as they lead the way to change and progress.
Rape is not, and should not, be a part of anyone’s prison sentence.
I say this: "Its true, no one really likes to talk about it. But it really happens to human beings men and women of all ages and ethnicity right here in the US. The numbers reported in this article are likely not even close to being accurate for obvious reasons. The article suggests that for the last year from August 2008 till June 2009, there were 60,000 rapes reported nationally? Seriously, could that be a realistic number? I'm not so sure. I wont even go into how many actual prisoners there are incarcerated in the United States and for how long etc. etc. You see where I am going with this right? Anyways, there is a law on the books passed in 2003 and I reiterate called the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Basically, its not rocket science to realize that this is an epidemic of horrendous proportions! Who is doing anything about it? The Human Rights Watch Dogs are "on it". But there power is limited. States are sovereign in there "own" state affairs to a very certain degree. Its a federal vs. state issue type of thing. Kind of like sharing powers under the term called federalism. Does that add up?
Those decisions regarding "state" prisons are usually left up to state governors in the United States. That's really where the buck has to start in some manner of speaking. However, these prison wardens have got to get on board or the 2003 legislation is never going to be implemented! This legislation is already 6 years old! Is everyone asleep?
There is a small light at the end of this tunnel. This post links to a site entitled the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. You have got to go there and read what it has to say. The reason? If your interested in human rights of prisoners, this site has been recently updated in August of 2009 with facts concerning the commissions findings and what the US Congress might plan to do about this "swine flu" like epidemic called prison rape. I hope you know that I really do believe that Global Human Rights Are For Everyone."