A CRITICAL APPRAISAL OF THE FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS OF FEMALE PRISONERS UNDER NIGERIAN LAW
The rights of a person under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are not gender biased but of general application to both sex. Due to physiological differences however certain rights are peculiar to women. A woman’s biological make-up requires that additional efforts be made by the Nigerian Prisons Service in case of female prisoners as far as their health is concerned. Every study on prison conditions in Nigeria has emphasized that Nigerian prisons were built with only men on the minds of the authorities.13 The reason given for doing so was that women were not expected to go to prison. Presently, though, women are known to commit crimes for which they go to prison like men but the situations have not changed because it is said that the population of women in prisons is insignificant to call for any change.14 Today in Nigeria we have only one independent female prison i.e. Kirikiri Women’s Prison in Lagos. But all other female prisons are carved out of male prisons. Today in Nigeria women prisoners are confined in one form of a make-shift, inadequate accommodation without observing the issue of classification. Experience has shown that about 95 percent of Nigerian female prisoners come within the child-bearing age bracket.15 Nature subjects these female prisoners to monthly menstruation. The stories narrated by these prisoners on how they managed their menstrual period is very pathetic. Some said that they used old rags in between their legs to check the blood flow. Others said they used pieces of paper in the same way as rags while others said that they would sit on the floor with their scanty dresses allowing the blood to be absorbed between the floor and the dress.1 This same problem applies to pregnant female inmates who are brought back to the prison soon after having their babies in hospitals outside the prison. The insignificant number of the female prisoners, particularly young girls, who said they used toilet tissues to manage the period said that the toilet tissues often provided by their visitors were never enough to last for two days of the expected four to five days period. This issue of exposure of the female prisoners to various types of infectious diseases during their menstrual period cannot be over-emphasized, and indeed some had been infected.2 Apart from their physical health, the situation also affects their mental health. In this respect female prisoners were dehumanized in a situation where they would be compelled to walk about with blood stains or sit on a bare floor in order to control the blood flowing down between their legs. It is the duty of the Nigerian Prisons Service to provide female prisoners with the necessary articles to keep themselves clean.