To read this content please select one of the options below:

The health of female prisoners in Indonesia

Amala Rahmah (Amala Rahmah is based at HIV Cooperation Program for Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia.)
James Blogg (James Blogg is an Injecting Drug Use Advisor, based at HIV Cooperation Program for Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia.)
Nurlan Silitonga (Dr Nurlan Silitonga is based at HIV Cooperation Program for Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia.)
Muqowimul Aman (Muqowimul Aman is based at Department of Correction, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Jakarta, Indonesia.)
Robert Michael Power (Professor Robert Michael Power is the Head, based at Centre for International Health, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia.)

International Journal of Prisoner Health

ISSN: 1744-9200

Article publication date: 9 December 2014




Indonesian law provides prisoners with basic rights, including access to education, health care and nutrition. Yet, structural and institutional limitations, notably overcrowding and under-resourcing, prohibits penal institutions from fulfilling these commitments for female prisoners. The purpose of this paper is to explore their health concerns.


Six prisons and one detention centre were researched, comprising: female prisoners (n=69); clinical officers (six); clinic heads (seven); wardens (seven); heads of prisons (seven); and a Directorate representative. Data were collected through observation, focus group discussions, in-depth interviews and a semi-structured questionnaire. Raw data were transcribed and analysed thematically, adopting the General Principles of Grounded Theory.


Both “formal” and “informal” health-coping strategies were dependent upon a range of factors which determined access to treatment, medicines and other items procured both inside and outside of the prison, as well as referral services. Informal systems of support existed for women, especially in regard to pregnancy and raising of babies born in detention. Systems that maintain harmony within cell blocks were identified as an important informal coping strategy.


This research is important in informing policy and practice. There is a clear need for gender-sensitive legislative frameworks, penal policies and prison rules to ensure women's needs are addressed. The identified coping strategies were considered viable, but do not replace the need for a health system providing women prisoners with levels of care as available in the community, including commensurate budgeting, personnel, access and referral to more specialised external health services.



The research was funded by the Australian Government through Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under HIV Cooperation Program for Indonesia. There were no conflicts of interest for any of the staff. Dr James Blogg had full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.


Rahmah, A., Blogg, J., Silitonga, N., Aman, M. and Michael Power, R. (2014), "The health of female prisoners in Indonesia", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 252-261.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles