Egyptian prisons must respect women’s bodily and health needs

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, March 12, 2019


The Egyptian Initiative or Personal Rights (EIPR), launched a campaign calling on the Egyptian prison authorities to provide, free of charge, sanitary pads to female prisoners. The campaign started on 8 March 2019, to commemorate International Women’s Day.

EIPR held open-ended interviews with  five former female prisoners who were incarcerated in two different prisons in Egypt. The interviews highlighted how the absence of their bodily needs in the law plays out in their everyday lives in relation to their economic situation and health.

According to EIPR’s press release, prisoners rely on their visitors to bring them sanitary pads ahead of time. Prisoners who come from a more disadvantaged economic class are less likely to have family members who can afford to visit and provide their basic needs.

As one woman explained to EIPR, “Many criminal prisoners who work informally in prison—for example by cleaning, washing laundry, or selling handmade items to other prisoners—can barely rely on this work to access food let alone sanitary pads. So we are accustomed to them coming to borrow from us. But this is an unnecessarily demeaning and difficult thing to have to do. It should be every woman’s right to have this integral thing that is essential to her bodily functioning without having to beg other prisoners for it.

Pads can be sold in prison canteens. However, according to EIPR, this option creates an even greater economic burden for prisoners who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Sanitary pads and other basic items are usually sold in Prison Canteens at exorbitant prices.

EIPR had previously published a report, entitled “For Sale in the Prison Canteen”, showing how the most basic needs of prisoners, that should be provided for by the prison authorities by law, are sold at high prices for the sake of canteen’s profits.

The scarcity of sanitary pads in prisons, means that many female prisoners feel the urge to wear their pads for longer hours. This leads to health risks, as wearing a damp pad for more than 6 hours places women at risk of skin rashes, urinary tract infections and vaginal infections. At the same time, prison facilities lack access to clean water, clean bathrooms and sufficient sunlight. EIPR is thus urging prison authorities to improve the facilities in Egyptian prisons in a manner that would respect the health rights of prisoners.

EIPR’s campaigns calls on the Egyptian prison authorities to provide sanitary pads free of charge to female prisoners. It also seeks to destigmatize menstruation and present sanitary products as a basic need for women.

For more information on the campaign, please visit here.