In this submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on health, IDPC, Corporación Humanas Colombia, and Penal Reform International provide some examples of the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on the sexual and reproductive health of incarcerated women, with a focus on period poverty.
Approximately 740,000 women are deprived of liberty across the world. An estimated 35% of them are in prison for drug offences, though that percentage is much higher in the countries with larger female prison populations, particularly in the Americas, and in South East Asia.
The world’s prison systems have been built by, and for, men. Women's specific needs are routinely ignored and deprioritised. One of the best examples of this trend is the disregard for the right to sexual and reproductive health of women deprived of liberty. This submission focuses on a particular aspect of this problem: the lack of access to menstrual health products, such as sanitary towels, for women who are in prison – also known as period poverty.
Even before the pandemic, in many countries women deprived of liberty had to rely on their family for the supply of menstrual health products, or for money to buy such products within prisons themselves.
When the pandemic hit these prison systems, the preferred response by many authorities was to completely cut off any visits and contact between prisons and the community, thus leaving women deprived of liberty with no access to the most basic menstrual health products.
Drawing on several country examples, and particularly on the research of Corporación Humanas Colombia, this submission explains this phenomenon, and how it constitutes a serious breach of the right to sexual and reproductive health of women deprived of liberty.