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De Lima seeks to protect female detainees from sexual harassment

May 15, 2017 ·  By Yuji Vincent Gonzales - Reporter for newsinfo.inquirer.net

Senator Leila de Lima. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/ MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Senator Leila de Lima.
INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/ MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima has filed a bill seeking to protect female prisoners from sexual harassment.
Senate Bill (SB) 1438, or the Women in State Custody Act of 2017, proposes that all females shall be held separately from male detainees, and that separate cells and facilities for women shall “form part of the standard design in the construction and improvement of jails and its facilities.”

“This imbalance of power is manifested in the easy use of direct physical force and indirect force given the detainee or prisoner’s total dependency on officers for basic necessities and the latter’s ability to withhold privileges,” De Lima said.

“The abuses, including rape, inappropriate sexual touching, beatings, excessive pat-downs and strip searches, and the use of sexualized language, is a crude example of the power imbalance between security personnel and women inmates,” she added.

Citing the 2001 Human Rights Advisory of the Commission on Human Rights, De Lima said 10 percent of women inmates at the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) admitted they had sexual contact with their jailers prior to their transfer to the CIW. Data from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penelogy also showed that there are only 58 female dormitories under the BJMP throughout the country, De Lima added.

“Because of the inherent balance of power between women inmates and their custodians, females in jails and correctional facilities are faced with an even worse punishment of being subjected to different forms of abuses,” the senator said.

De Lima expressed alarm that the abuses remain unreported “due to the widespread fear of retaliation by the perpetrators, aggravated by the lack of a strict and concrete grievance or investigatory procedure, which gives detention and prison officers and employees impunity to continuously perform such abuses.”

“This unfortunate situation may have been avoided if the government at least complied with Rule 53 of the United Nations Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners,” she added.

De Lima’s bill also mandates the presence of female security personnel during interrogation of women detainees; prohibits the contact between male security personnel and female detainees and prisoners, unless done in the presence of female security personnel; prohibits male security personnel and inmates to stay in the premises allocated for women during night time; allows female detainees and prisoners to communicate freely and in full confidentiality with persons who visit and inspect places of detention or imprisonment; and allows female detainees or prisoners to file complaints regarding the violation of her rights, whether through her counsel, family member or any other person who has knowledge of the violations. JE/rga

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