Mothers behind bars
Under Cambodian prison law, infants can stay behind bars with their mothers until the age of three. They often stay longer. Though prison is far from an ideal environment for infants, it is often the only option when relatives are unable to look after them. In prison, children are too often deprived of their most basic rights. Prison authorities only allocate an additional 1400 riel ($0.35) per day per child for food and other basic needs.
“The worst part of being in prison was when my daughter was sick,” said one recently-released woman interviewed by LICADHO who was jailed for two years on a minor drug offense along with her six-month-old child. “I was really afraid she would have big problems… I really felt bad for her and tried to buy milk for her because she could not eat the food.”
Supporting the unsupported
The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) works with partner organisations to provide extra food and material support to growing numbers of infants and pregnant women behind bars. There are currently more than 140 children and about 23 pregnant women in the 18 prisons that LICADHO monitors, which is a substantial increase on recent years.
This is largely due to the widespread use of pre-trial detention and the government’s “war on drugs”, which began on 1 January 2017. The majority of pregnant women and mothers with small children arrested this past year were detained for suspected drug offences as part of a wider crackdown that has put more than ten thousand people behind bars.
A little goes a long way
LICADHO requires funds to provide essential food and hygiene materials to our clients on a monthly basis.