Senate bill urges construction of facilities for pregnant, nursing detainees
Heavily guarded Reina Mae Nasino looks at her 3-month-old daughter as she lays her to rest at the Manila North Cemetery on October 16, 2020. Allowed just three hours out of jail, the grieving mother remained handcuffed during the funeral.

Senate bill urges construction of facilities for pregnant, nursing detainees

(Philstar.com) - December 1, 2020 - 12:59pm

MANILA, Philippines — Citing the case of Reina Mae Nasino and of her baby, Sen. Leila de Lima has proposed a measure to set up facilities in detention centers and prisons for women detainees, especially mothers and their children.

"This measure hopes to be the catalyst that will shed a light into the horrors to which children born to mothers deprived of liberty have to live with and survive, that will make the world to which they have been born in better, and that will give them the compassion and mercy that children for all their innocence and purity rightfully deserve," De Lima, who has been detained at Camp Crame for close to four years now, said. 

The senator filed Senate Bill No. 1926 or "Mothers Deprived of Liberty and their Children Act of 2020," last November 23, her office said Tuesday. 

De Lima recalled the case of Baby River, who died while separated from her mother, calling it compelling proof that reforms must be implemented swiftly and effectively on laws that affect the rights of pregnant and nursing women deprived of liberty.

Following the death of Baby River and amid public outcry over jail guards' treatment of Nasino, who remained handcuffed throughout most of her daughter's wake and funeral, Malacañang said it would look into conditions in jail facilities.

Nasino was forced to part with her child after the Manila City Jail Dormitory said that it did not have the facilities needed to nurse newborn babies.

READ: Still in cuffs, jailed activist buries baby born while behind barsKarapatan: BJMP, court took away Baby River's fighting chance to live

Babies to stay with jailed moms for first 12 months

Under De Lima's proposed measure, all infants born to detained women shall remain with their mothers for the first twelve months after birth.

"Decisions as to when a child is to be separated from his/her mother after the twelve (12) months from birth, shall be based on individual assessments and the best interest of the child," she said. 

"Non-custodial sentences for pregnant women and women with dependent children shall be preferred when possible and appropriate, with custodial sentences being considered only when the offense is serious or heinous in nature, after taking into account the best interest of the child or children, while ensuring that appropriate provision has been made for the care of such children," De Lima added. 

The senator said her bill is guided by several international laws and principles including the Nelson Mandela Rules which requires member States to work towards establishing in women's institutions "special accommodation for all necessary pre-natal and post-natal care and treatment."

It also drew from Article 30 of the "Children of Imprisoned Mothers" from the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which seeks to provide special treatment to expectant mothers and to mothers of infants and young children who have been accused or found guilty of infringing the penal law.  — Bella Perez-Rubio

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