Vietnam may allow conjugal visits to make prisons more humane

In a move to make Vietnamese prisons more humane, the Ministry of Public Security is drafting a rule allowing inmates to meet their spouses in private rooms.

The proposed rule, recently made public by the government, will reward prisoners who have complied with regulations or make contributions with conjugal visits of 24 hours.

Details are sketchy at this point. It's unclear if the rule will even apply to death row inmates or how often prisoners with good behavior can see their partners.

Under one of the proposed conditions, female prisoners eligible for conjugal visits will have to use contraception and sign a commitment promising that they will not get pregnant.

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Women at a prison in northern Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Anh

This can open up many more questions, but the government clearly wants to make sure that female prisoners can serve their sentences with no pregnancy involved.

Vietnamese authorities may be more cautious about pregnancy in prisons now, after a drug trafficking convict in the northern province of Quang Ninh escaped death penalty after getting pregnant last year. The 42-year-old woman reportedly managed to successfully insemminate herself with seamen bought from a co-inmate.

In Vietnam babies born in prisons will be either sent home to relatives or raised in on-site nurseries. Children from three years old, however, are not allowed to be raised in prisons.

Tran The Quan, deputy director of the Legislation Department at the Ministry of Public Security, told local media that female prisoners who violate their commitment of not getting pregnant will be punished, without providing specifics.

Commenting on the proposed rule in general, he said allowing conjugal visits is a humane and appropriate policy.

“I have discussed it with foreign colleagues and they hailed such a move as an improvement for Vietnam’s legal system,” Quan said, as cited by Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh (Ho Chi Minh City Law)newspaper.

Quan said family reunions will have psychological benefits and give inmates motivation.

In a rare example, a prison in the northern province of Bac Giang has for several years allowed visits between male prisoners and their wives and children. The prison places condoms and drinks in each reunion room.


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