Press Release
May 14, 2017

De Lima seeks law protecting women detainees from sexual assault

Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure protecting female detainees from sexual assault in the course of their incarceration in fulfilment of her electoral promise to introduce meaningful reforms to the country's penal and penology system.

De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) 1438, or the Women in State Custody Act of 2017, in response to the disproportion between custodians and women inmates, the latter faced with an even worse punishment of being subjected to different forms of abuses.

"This imbalance of power is manifested in the easy use of direct physical force and indirect force given the detainee or prisoner's total dependency on officers for basic necessities and the latter's ability to withhold privileges," she said.

"The abuses, including rape, inappropriate sexual touching, beatings, excessive pat-downs and strip searches, and the use of sexualized language, is a crude example of the power imbalance between security personnel and women inmates," she added.

Based on 2001 Human Rights Advisory of the Commission on Human Rights, 1o percent of those women inmates at the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) admitted they had sexual contact with their jailers prior to their transfer to the CIW.

"Because of the inherent balance of power between women inmates and their custodians, females in jails and correctional facilities are faced with an even worse punishment of being subjected to different forms of abuses," she added.

The former justice secretary also said it was worrisome for these abuses to remain unreported, due to the widespread fear of retaliation by the perpetrators, aggravated by the lack of a strict and concrete grievance or investigatory procedure, which gives detention and prison officers and employees impunity to continuously perform such abuses.

"This unfortunate situation may have been avoided if the government at least complied with Rule 53 of the United Nations Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners," she said.

Recent data from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penelogy (BJMP) also showed that there are only 58 female dormitories under the BJMP throughout the country, and the three populous regions do not even have a single female dormitory.

Under her proposed SB 1438, females shall at all times be held separately from male detainees and prisoners. Separate cells and facilities for women shall form part of the standard design in the construction and improvement of jails and its facilities. The proposed bill shall also mandate the following:

  • Presence of female security personnel during interrogation of women detainees;

  • Prohibit the contact between male security personnel and female detainees and prisoners, unless done in the presence of female security personnel;

  • Prohibit male security personnel and inmates to stay in the premises allocated for women during night time;

  • Allow female detainees and prisoners to communicate freely and in full confidentiality with persons who visit and inspect places of detention or imprisonment;

  • Allow female detainees or prisoners to file complaints regarding the violation of her rights, whether through her counsel, family member or any other person who has knowledge of the violations.

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