Page last updated at 14:56 GMT, Friday, 28 August 2009 15:56 UK

Marital visits for Pakistan jails

Federal Shariat Court in Islamabad
The court ordered Pakistani authorities to look at international prison systems

Pakistan's top Islamic court has ruled that prisoners in jails across the country must have greater conjugal rights and visits from spouses.

The order followed a petition which argued that the lack of conjugal rights was behind rising levels of homosexual sex and drug addiction in jails.

Pakistan has a high prison population with many inmates awaiting trial

Human rights groups say prison conditions are "nightmarish" and often lead to rioting by inmates.

"We understand that there are no facilities in any jail across the country for the privacy needed for family visits," the court noted in its order.

"We order the authorities to construct such facilities so that families can meet with the necessary seclusion."

'Islamic rights'

The court said that the lack of such facilities had indeed led to rising levels of homosexual sex, drug addiction and what it termed as other "immoral" activities in national jails.

It said it was the human and Islamic right of every prisoner to have access to such facilities.

The court ordered the authorities to examine international prison systems and gauge what improvements needed to be made in Pakistan.

Prisoners who were deemed to have improved their behaviour should be allowed family visits and the concept of "open jails" should also be investigated, the court said.

The decision by Pakistan's federal shariat [Islamic] court comes as a result of a petition first submitted in 1992.

Human rights organisations have often criticised the way Pakistani jails are operated.

They have alleged that officials routinely assault prisoners.

They say the facilities for prisoners are dismal with dozens being lodged in cells designed for four to six prisoners.

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