The international council of nurses (ICN) has announced that the theme for this year’s international nurse’s day (IND), 12th may, is Nurses: A Voice to Lead, Health is Human Right. Health is an invaluable blessing for a human being’s life; without it, one can become uninspired, de-motivated, and unable to thrive for success. Since 2008, the movement for Kashmiri liberation or ‘Azaadi’ from the Indian military occupation has been overwhelmingly expressed by the people of Kashmir through peaceful protests. The Indian government has always responded to such movements of struggle through brutal killings, debilitating injuries including the use of pellet guns and empty tear-gas canisters. Under laws like the Public Safety Act (PSA), state authorities have imprisoned thousands of Kashmiri youth and activists. Over 5000 Kashmiris were arrested in the summer of 2008 alone. Since then, more than 15,000 Kashmiris have spent some time in prison at one point or other.
World Health Organization (WHO) 1946 came with a definition that “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. WHO has also given an operational definition of
health, according to which the concept of health has been defined as “a condition or quality of the human organism expressing the adequate functioning of the organism in given conditions, genetic or environmental” as cited by (Gidey, Taju,
&Hagos, 2006). The authors have further elaborated the different dimensions of health as given by the WHO like physical, mental, and social aspects are the three specific dimensions of health and few more dimensions may be included to health like spiritual and emotional.
Coming to the health vis-à-vis Prisons, according to a report compiled by (World Health Organization, 2007) it says that People who are in prison have the same right to health care as everyone else. It also includes right to give humane treatment and proper medical care. It clearly says that it is prison administration that has a responsibility to ensure that prisoners receive a proper health care facility and it stresses upon that the public health care should be closely linked with the prison health care. (Marshall, Simpson, & Stevens, 2000) have given certain general feature for the needs of health care of Prisoners. According to them Prisoners also have same needs as there are needs in General populations. There are losses of family network due to imprisonment. Sometimes the atmosphere in prison may be violent and overcrowded as well. Therefore prisoners may suffer emotional deprivation due to which it is possible that prisoners may become drug abusers or develop mental health problems. Within the prison the health care needs may be more complicated than outside and therefore sometimes management of chronic diseases like diabetes and epilepsy gets more complicated.
Better health care is a right of every person and therefore for a prisoner also, according to the Indian Prison Act of 1894, there are given few legal provisions in order to make sure that prisoner’s health will be given due importance by the authorities. The Indian Prison Act stresses upon that if any prisoner is ill and wants a medical attention he must be immediately shown to the doctor. Article 21 of Indian constitution guarantees right to life which also includes right to health for all persons including prisoners without any kind of discrimination. Similarly there are Jail Manuals for every state that also provides many rights to prisoners with respect to their right to better health care services. If we talk of Jammu and Kashmir, in the Manual for superintendence and Management of Jails, several provisions are mentioned for prisoner’s personal hygiene, cleanliness and other different medical facilities in order to provide a better overall health care system for a prisoner. The manual says that the object of medical administration in prisons is mainly to restore and maintain the physical and mental health of prisoners and to keep up the general sanitation and hygiene of the institution to a satisfactory standard.
Right to health in terms of prisoners do not only include the preventive and curative health only, but it also includes supportive health care by providing prisoners the access to several determinants of health like adequate sanitation, safe drinking water, safe food, accommodation, adequate nutrition, health education, exercise, access to fresh air, meditation, etc.
Health in prisons is a part of public health because Prisons cannot be considered isolated from the society. As we know there are millions of prisoners around the world and there are enormous numbers of inmates as well suffering from the several types of illness and diseases inside the jails. Many of the prisoners suffer from different types of illness that ranges from less severe to more or chronic types illness and similarly many are also there that either suffers from communicable or non communicable diseases like Tuberculosis, malaria, HIV etc. Similarly Psychological problems are also prevalent among the prisoners therefore it is not wrong to say that many prisons may be the basin of diseases in some contexts if the standards of health and proper humane conditions do not prevail there.
As far as this topic “Right to Health- Prevalence of Rhabdomyolysis” is concerned, it reflects the life experiences of the political prisoners in Kashmir with respect to their health issues they have faced due to the imprisonment and the ill treatment they met with during imprisonment or detention. There has been many reports of the ill treatment met with the political prisoners inside the jails and detention centers and there after negative consequence as a result of that ill treatment. One of such example was reported in Kashmir by the Physicians for Human Rights and Asia Watch (1993) that there is a prevalence of a serious disease that has been diagnosed as Rhabdomyolysis among the political prisoners in Kashmir. In this disease the kidney may get damaged due to the acute renal problems. Doctors have given main reason of this disease among political prisoners as the interrogation and torture techniques like in which leg muscles are crushed and therefore a secretion of dead muscle fibers is produced that reaches into the blood stream damages the kidneys. Although if quick intervention is done the better results can be achieved and due to lack of medical attention it can prove serious. According to the report doctors have observed 37 cases of Rhabdomyolysis since 1990 among many ex- political prisoners in which three patients died of this disease and almost ten required dialysis. Prisoners are also like other people living outside the walls of the prison. The government has to understand that the prisoners inside the jails are also like other people living outside the prison. Therefore like other people, prisoners are also entitled to all the rights implemented in different laws within the limits of prison and these rights should not be denied to them just because they are inside the protected walls. The impact of imprisonment on the health of a political prisoner during the imprisonment and also the post imprisonment health issue is a serious concern and it is important to know if at all they are given any kind of medical care facility, which is their fundamental right and not a plea, during the imprisonment period.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org