Egyptian Front published today a report called “Forgotten in Al Qanater” to highlight Violating rights of women detained inside Al Qanater prison. It attempts to determine the role of gender in exacerbating violations against women through reflecting upon how women’s prisons. Al-Qanater prison particularly, stand apart from men’s prisons, in terms of systematic patterns of violations.
Women’s prisons in general and the Qanater prison in particular never received rightful human rights recognition or consideration, as the focus is on heavily guarded prisons and men’s prisons while addressing human rights violations committed against prisoners. The Egyptian human rights literature has not dealt with the conditions of women in Al-Qanater prison thoroughly for at least 10 years since the Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners issued its last report on the violations suffered by women inside Al-Qanater prison in 2009. Despite the media attention and human rights incidents of arresting women in cases of protesting or on charges of terrorism, but abuses against female detainees are usually reduced to the arrest process itself, without going into the internal conditions of women’s prisons.
There is a need to investigate and consider the lives of women in prisons and places of detention in Egypt, away from the traditional pattern of dealing with human rights violations, which focuses on those of detention facilities affecting men, and rarely addresses the special needs of women, or structural violence resulting from the hierarchy and internal structure of the prison system in Egypt. This includes women’s needs related to personal hygiene and their health care, as well as the rights of pregnant and nursing women prisoners and their children, and the approach of using sexual harassment as a form of torture.
This report attempts to bring a new onset for research on the rights of women prisoners in Egypt, by dealing with social and economic rights as basic rights no less important than political and civil rights, as with the complete absence of real and impartial supervision of places of detention, discriminatory policies have emerged within Egypt’s prisons in general, and women’s prisons in particular. A matter which has created a classist and discriminatory prison environment that segregates between prisoners according to their social, economic and political backgrounds, not to mention the financial burden of livelihood services that should have been naturally provided to the inmates in prison, places the burden of attaining them on prisoners and their families, turning the prison from being a house of refinement and reform into a commercial project. This has transformed detentions, from a precautionary measure or a punitive instrument, into a form of kidnapping under which women suffer torture and humiliation endlessly.
This report relied on conducting personal and phone interviews with 12 former female prisoners and documenting their lives while being held in Al-Qanater prison. The testimonies have been attained during the months dating between June to August 2019. Some of the women were held in custody and some of them were already convicted. We also conducted an interview with a mother of a current prisoner, as well as with two lawyers who recounted what their clients went through during their detention. It should be noted that the identities of everyone we have cited in this report is kept anonymous for their protection, whether they were former detainees, relatives of current detainees or lawyers.
The report attempts to determine the role of gender in exacerbating violations against women through reflecting upon how women’s prisons. Al-Qanater prison particularly, stand apart from men’s prisons, in terms of systematic patterns of violations.
It also attempts to answer this question through reviewing the Egyptian law as well as international agreements and standards. The report also relies on previous literature published in the local press about this prison, the result of combining these sources, the report reaches an outcome that is revealed in five main sections:
First, the report analyses the situation of female prisoners through comparing between Egyptian legislation and international law in order to determine the extent to which the prison regulations conforms to international standards.
Second, the prisoners are subjected to violations preceding their detention in Al-Qanater prison, starting from their arrest up until being assigned to their wards. This section focuses on their plight in the deportation car and being placed in the “New Arrivals” ward for 11 days before being distributed to their wards, as two main transition points where their rights are gravely breached.
Thirdly, this section deals with the housing process in the wards, it begins by an outlook of the Qanater prison from the inside; its quarters and its wards, after that it deals with the violations committed during the distribution process of the prisoners without taking into consideration their legal status.
Fourth, the major part of this report highlights the most prominent patterns of violations experienced by the prisoners while they are held in Al-Qanater prison after being placed in their wards. This section is divided into two branches, the first one deals with the violations that female prisoners encounter which are similar to what male prisoners are also exposed to, while the second branch focuses on violations that are gender-based, which violate or affect the special needs of women.
Fifth, the report attempts to delve deeper into the layers of discrimination between female prisoners within Al-Qanater prison, and the tendentious prison policies based on social, economic and political backgrounds.
Sixth, lastly, the report addresses the policies of impoverishment used inside the Qanater prison, in terms that free services are sold inside the prison, and the cost of visits upon families, as well as the canteen and cafeteria being rather commercial projects that exploit the prisoners financially and increase the economic burden on them and their families.