What is the status of conjugal rights for prisoners in India? Why these rights are important?
A conjugal visit is a scheduled visit where an inmate is allowed to spend time with their legal spouse wherein the meeting parties may engage sexually. The duration of the visit under conjugal rights may stretch from several hours to several days.
Conjugal visit is a modern-day concept adopted by countries like Canada, Germany, Russia, Spain, Belgium, Spain, Saudi Arabia, and Denmark.
Status in India:
Currently there is no law in India that expressly allows conjugal visits to inmates.
In 2015, Punjab and Haryana High Court had allowed conjugal visits and artificial insemination for inmates. The Court had held that unless reasonably classified, inmates were entitled to the right to procreate while incarcerated and that it was a fundamental right.
In 2018, the Madras High Court has granted a two-week conjugal visit for the purpose of procreation. The Madras High Court granted leave by citing laws in several countries that allow such a visit and a resolution by the Central government that refers conjugal visits as a right and not a privilege. The judgment also referred to the Rule 20 of Tamil Nadu suspension of Sentence Rules, 1982 which mentions any other extraordinary reason for granting leaves.
Significance of Conjugal rights:
Conjugal rights are an important factor in preserving family bonds. They can result in reducing aggressive tendencies among prisoners which makes them to break prison rules and regulations.
Psychologists, psychiatrists, prison reforms and academics endorsing a reformative and rehabilitation model for inmates agree that conjugal visits also helps inmates to return to normal life after being released from prison.
It also recognises Article 21 of the spouse of the convict. The Spouse cannot be denied legitimate expectation to have a child.
Indian judicial system is reformative not punitive. Conjugal visits help prisoners maintain relationship with families. Conjugal rights can motivate and act as an incentive to good prisoners. Therefore the government must frame detailed guidelines on the conjugal rights because Imprisonment does not mean farewell to fundamental rights.
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