“These things make you feel inhuman if you concentrate on them, so you try to forget them and accept life.” ― Inmate, Zambia
All prisoners are deeply affected by the conditions of their detention, from the amount of light they get to the quality of the food and cleanliness of cells. Yet just as some conditions or deprivations can be more common among particular groups, others experience the same conditions in different ways. Such is the case for women.
In 2008, the UN’s independent expert on torture raised the bar for women by asserting that, in the context of detention, poor conditions can affect them more adversely, compared to men. My own conversations with women in prisons around the world found examples of this throughout prison life (and particularly in the many squalid and unsafe police cells used to detain women on arrest) with harmful if not devastating effect.
The case of police custody in Zambia highlights this painfully. Here women told us of their…