Should all Indian prisons allow conjugal visits?

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Poll Question :

Should all Indian prisons have a conjugal visit program?

Poll Choice
No; prison is supposed to be a punishment.
No; it's too complicated to organize with budgeted resources.
Undecided after thinking about both sides.
Yes, but only for prisoners with good behaviour.
Yes, but it should be limited to legally married spouses.
Yes; it helps to reintegrate prisoners into family and society.
Yes; consensual sexual expression is a fundamental human right.
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Posted: 1 years ago

A conjugal visit is when a prisoner is given privacy with a partner and they may engage in sexual activity within the prison premises.

On September 20, 2022, three prisons in Punjab began allowing conjugal visits to some prisoners. This follows a 2015 ruling by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana declaring it a fundamental right. India has never allowed this sort of program before, but other countries have more history with it.

What does everyone think about this development in India - should it expand nationwide? I am interested in your reasons for answering yes/no, so please join the discussion even if you're undecided, and when you vote, please tell us in a post how you voted and why.

This is the first topic I have started in Debate Mansion, and just as I read all of the forum rules before starting the debate, I hope everyone else will take the time to do so before participating.

In the interest of everyone researching and contributing diverse facts and studies to the debate, I haven't shared the High Court's reasoning or the details of the pilot program.

I also excluded some radical options from the poll on purpose, but feel free to discuss how this intersects with the status of women, family planning, minority issues, prison labour and other systemic exploitation of prisoners, STDs and reproductive health in prison, and violent criminals.

I am requesting Global Moderators to give this topic prominence as they see fit. If I tagged anyone else who isn't interested, please pardon me.

Posted: 1 years ago

It should be allowed for prisoners who display good behaviour but I see this rule being abused in India by rich politicians or mobsters ( living in prison ) who’ll manipulate the system and abuse young poor girls 😡

Posted: 1 years ago

If rich politicians and mobsters in prison have the connections to get victims or consensual partners procured for them, they will do it even now, without the conjugal visit program for ordinary prisoners.

Gloria Trevi wasn't allowed conjugal visits (Brazil rarely grants them to female prisoners), and Sergio Andrade was imprisoned separately, yet they are alleged to have conceived a baby by bribing guards to give them privacy in prison. When influential prisoners can make this sort of incident happen off the record, isn't it better to have a visible program that keeps track of visitors?

If someone makes a complaint that she was victimized during a conjugal visit, the prison system can verify her whereabouts and there's more accountability. Or, the abuser could even be caught in the act by a whistle-blower.

Rich and influential prisoners are a tiny minority of the prison population. Decent treatment for everyone shouldn't be blocked because of what a minority might do.

I am concerned about "good behaviour" being the criterion for prisoners to have access to their conjugal partners. This gives prison guards one more way to extort favours from prisoners: do as I say and I'll put your name on the list for a visit. Prisoners with mental illness might be more likely to be punished for "bad behaviour" and denied visits that improve their mental health ... a vicious cycle. What about prisoners who don't conform in some way - maybe gay or transgender, from the wrong ethnicity or religion or caste, or maybe sickly or handicapped ... are they vulnerable to prejudice that would deny them conjugal visits?

Why shouldn't every prisoner have equal access to conjugal visits?

Posted: 1 years ago

"Consensual sexual expression" is not a fundamental human right and hence an invalid poll choice. Sex might be a physiological need per Maslow but nowhere in this world is it a fundamental right identified in a constitution.

Assuming that the person was accorded full due process under the law and incarcerated only after a trial that was conducted fairly by an impartial judge, the answer to your question would depend on whether one wants criminals to have a "pleasant" stay during their time served at the penitentiary.To my mind, the decision is binary and the choice is between two alternatives: a) yes b) no

I would have voted (a resounding) no! I didn't vote only because as a topic maker you exhibited bias in providing choices which overwhelmingly lean towards giving prisoners/criminals conjugal visits albeit conditionally. The second option for instance is grudgingly saying no; it's the same as "yes, if budget weren't a concern". You could have kept it neutral and argued from both sides till we "settle" on the winning argument.

Posted: 1 years ago

The purpose of a poll is to see how popular a point of view is, not how correct it is. (To argue and maybe settle which side is correct, we have posts.) Even from your point of view that the second "no" option is really a "yes," if a plurality of voters agree with you in principle that convicts shouldn't have a pleasant stay, that will appear as the longest bar, and your popular win will be clear.

The "no" option based on budget is only a "yes" if you assume that the voter wants to expand the budget until conjugal visits can be an included priority. Instead of making that assumption, I would like those who choose this option to tell us why a conjugal visit program is too complicated and what else would have to be adequately budgeted before this could be considered.

I am interested in how many people say "no" on principle and how many say "no" based on  logistics. Limited resources were mentioned in every news article about the pilot program. (Well-behaved prisoners with legal opposite-sex spouses have to wait in line for two months between conjugal visits.) The courts also considered the prison infrastructure among other arguments from the government. Politicians may attack this program as "wasteful spending" and not only "soft on crime" in their campaigning. So, "no" based on budget is a point of view that deserves representation as much as "no" on principle.

Splitting the "yes" vote four ways and the "no" vote two ways does not disadvantage the "no" side. If anything, it would make the popularity of "no" options more visible. Of course, I don't find it difficult to tally two to four options for an overall no vs. yes percentage, and I hope the same is true for everyone who can count to 100.

My reasons for offering four "yes" options were the restrictions of the pilot program (well-behaved and legally married, which discriminates against gay/lesbian and unmarried prisoners) and the reasoning of the High Court in this and other cases (e.g. the state has an interest in maintaining the prisoner's family relationships for the benefit of society; sexless marriage is mental cruelty and grounds for divorce; consensual sex is an incentive for prisoners to behave well and not assault each other).

India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenants of the UN, and thus the Constitution of India 1949 is to be interpreted in accordance with the United Nations Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners, 1990. What this means is that freedom of peaceful assembly/association, personal liberty, privacy, access to healthy living and leisure, the right to marry, and the right to found a family can only be limited as necessitated by incarceration, and not for cruel or degrading punishment.

Consensual sex is an example of peaceful assembly, irrespective of marital status or sexual orientation.

Article 21 in the Constitution of India 1949 states: Protection of life and personal liberty:

No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

In the case of Jasvir Singh and Another v. State of Punjab (2015), the High Court ruled that Article 21 protects prisoners' conjugal visits, procreation, and access to artificial insemination. The state's penological interests can limit but not abrogate these rights.

There is no law that prisoners may be or must be denied their consensual sexual expression. Therefore, by default under Article 21, even unmarried prisoners and gay/lesbian prisoners should have access to conjugal visits, procreation, and artificial insemination.

I chose to include "fundamental human right" as an option more extreme than the High Court's decision limited to married opposite-sex couples. I hope that the range of options allows everyone's view to be represented.

Posted: 1 years ago

When you say that “the purpose of a poll is to see how popular a point of view is”, you probably have a straw poll or a straw ballot in mind. That’s unscientific and has a large margin of error. You would want your respondents not pushed to answering in a certain manner because of leading terms. Your choices were leading! But, as long as we are deliberating on the choices, I have no qualms.

Punishment/retribution for crimes against the society is not the only purpose of sentencing a person to prison. There are other reasons like deterrence and incapacitation; the horrific prospect of landing in this oppressive unbearable place that we refer to as a prison would hopefully deter people from committing crimes and breaking the law. Depriving criminals of their freedom and making the conditions of confinement really harsh is civilized society’s way of addressing crime as well as deterring crime. I don’t see why we should incentivize criminals by providing “perks” such as designated rooms, linens, towels, etc., so that criminals (rapists, murderers, violent abusers and ilk) can engage in sexual activity.

Posted: 1 years ago

The pilot program excludes sex offenders. Considering that the incidence of sexual assaults in prison drops when conjugal visits are allowed, should sex offenders be prevented from developing healthy consensual sexual habits?

Most prisoners are not serving life sentences, and thus another purpose of imprisonment is rehabilitation and preparation to reintegrate into society. A family is the prisoner's primary support system. Without a family, an ex-convict may turn to illegal work or gangs, just to survive. If a prisoner can maintain intimacy with a spouse, it's more likely that the spouse will be there to support the prisoner upon release.

Conjugal visit programs that alleviate recidivism are in the best interest of society, not just the prisoner.

Posted: 1 years ago

BrhannadaArmour, in the roadmap for the development of Prison-based Rehabilitation Programmes, the UN office on Drugs and Crime emphasizes on education, vocational training and work during prison years. As far as I can tell, that roadmap doesn’t recognize conjugal visits.

That the convicts may reoffend once they are out if we do not allow conjugal visits when they are in prison, sounds like a threat: agree or else! If they reoffend, they will go back again hopefully for life without parole. We cannot negotiate with those who threaten. Neither can we reward them.

P.S: no need to underscore the word consensual so many times. Without consent, sexual activity would be considered assault or rape in most places. In the context of this topic, consent is implied.

Posted: 1 years ago

The reality is that conjugal visits encourage prisoners and their families in support of reintegration, leading to less crime, a positive outcome, and you are trying to spin it as an implicit threat of more crime - by whom? Individual prisoners have to demonstrate good behaviour to be eligible for the pilot program, and yet you imagine them as a bloc, threatening to reoffend against society at large, just wait for them to be free.

No one who wants to survive prison behaves in the way that you imagine.

"We cannot negotiate with those who threaten. Neither can we reward them." A line written for TV may sound presidential, but it's totally incongruous with the situation where you delivered it. Hardcore criminals and gangsters are not eligible for the pilot program.

Prisoners know very well that if they reoffend, they will go back to prison. It is unimaginably ridiculous to imagine someone sitting in prison, thinking that a conjugal visit every two months is worth more prison time.

You hope that they will go back "for life without parole." That's a rare punishment. What kind of crime are you hoping they'll commit after being released for a lesser offence? Murder or rape?

I haven't overused the word "consensual." Every single time, I used it because the distinction is important. In India, unfortunately, sexual activity without consent is not a crime within marriage. Even two days ago, when the Supreme Court finally defined marital rape as rape, it was not declared a crime. So, it is important to be clear that conjugal visits with legal spouses are consensual.

Posted: 1 years ago

If, as you said, "conjugal visit programs that alleviate recidivism are in the best interest of society", conversely, it could be restated as "rejecting the proposal of conjugal visit programs are not in the best interests of the society". I wasn't spinning your statement, I was rehashing it and expressing my opinion thereafter without juicing it up with exclamations or unnecessary punctuation in a dramatic manner.

You speak of alleviated recidivism as a forgone conclusion. There is no comprehensive analysis that determines the overall effect of prison visitation on re-offending post-release. All I see on the web are studies which have yielded inconsistent findings, with some demonstrating beneficial effects (Ellis et al.1974; Gonçalves et al. 2016; Woo et al. 2015), some highlighting harmful effects (Benning and Lahm 2016; Casey-Acevedo et al. 2004; Jiang et al. 2005; Lindsey et al. 2017), and a few other studies concluding with null effects (Clark 2001; Goetting and Howsen 1986). Some studies have  said that at the end of each visit, inmates must separate again from their visitors, which may increase feelings of loss and isolation and exacerbate inmate misconduct (Dixey andWoodall 2012; Turanovic and Tasca 2019).

We can't cherry-pick any one study. It only exposes our confirmation bias.

As for life without parole for habitual offenders, I had the three-strikes laws in mind. I am aware that this is only applicable to (some) states in US and the rough equivalent of this in India is "enhanced sentencing"?


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