Prison rape

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Looking across different US government survey sources, for a given year, male adult and youth inmates are estimated to suffer several times more incidents of sexual victimizations than incarcerated females. Male and female inmates are not included in most national surveys of sexual victimization.[1][2]

Prison rape or jail rape is sexual assault of people while they are incarcerated. The phrase is commonly used to describe rape of inmates by other inmates, or to describe rape of inmates by staff. It is a significant if controversial part of what is studied under the wider concept of prison sexuality.


In February 2021, BBC News reported eyewitness accounts of systematic rape of Uyghur women in the Xinjiang internment camps.[3][4]

Multiple women who were formerly detained in the Xinjiang internment camps have publicly made accusations of systemic sexual abuse, including rape.[3] Sayragul Sauytbay, a teacher who was forced to work in the camps, told the BBC that employees of the camp in which she was detained conducted rapes en masse, saying that camp guards "picked the girls and young women they wanted and took them away".[3] She also told the BBC of an organized gang rape, in which a woman around age 21 was forced to make a confession in front of a crowd of 100 other women detained in the camps, before being raped by multiple policemen in front of the assembled crowd.[3] Tursunay Ziawudun, a woman who was detained in the camps for a period of nine months, told the BBC that women were removed from their cells "every night" to be raped by Chinese men, and that she was subjected to three separate instances of gang rape while detained.[3] Qelbinur Sedik, an Uzbek woman from Xinjiang, has stated that Chinese police sexually abused detainees during electric shock tortures, saying that "there were four kinds of electric shock... the chair, the glove, the helmet, and anal rape with a stick".[3]


Sexual violence against political prisoners is prevalent in Iran.[5] It is allegedly ignored or even facilitated by authorities.[6]

Reports issued to the United Nations allege that rape has been used by interrogators in Iran for decades.[7] During the 1980s, following the Iranian Islamic Revolution, the rape of female political prisoners was so prevalent that it prompted Hussein-Ali Montazeri, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini's then-deputy, to write the following to Khomeini in a letter dated 7 October 1986: "Did you know that young women are raped in some of the prisons of the Islamic Republic?"[8] Two prominent members of Iran's human rights community, the feminist lawyer and journalist Shadi Sadr and the blogger and activist Mojtaba Saminejad published essays online from inside Iran saying prison rape has a long history in the Islamic Republic.[8]

In the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests, opposition groups[who?] reported thousands were arrested and tortured in prisons around the country, with former inmates alleging mass rape of men, women and children by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, in prisons such as Kahrizak and Evin.[9][10]

Following the 2009 presidential election, Iranian presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi said several protesters held behind bars in Evin Prison had been savagely raped, according to a confidential letter to former president and cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.[11] Karroubi said this was a "fragment" of the evidence he had and that if the denials did not stop, he would release even more.[12][13]

On 9 August 2009, in a letter to the Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council of Iran, Mehdi Karroubi demanded investigation of Iranian prisons for possible torture and, in particular, sexual harassment of men and women.[14][15] On 19 August, he wrote to parliament speaker Ali Larijani, asking to meet with him, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the state prosecutor to "personally present my documents and evidence over the cases of sexual abuse in some prisons specially Kahrizak."[16] Ali Larijani and Sadeq Larijani (Judiciary committee) both officially rejected his claims and Ali Khamenei's representatives, and Vice Chairman of National Security Commission of the parliament demanded Karroubi's arrest.[17][citation needed]


Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both released reports of widespread rape and abuse of prisoners in Turkey spanning multiple decades.[18][19] Kurdish prisoners have also been specifically targeted for rape and other forms of sexual violence.[20]

Middle East[edit]

Rape is regularly used in prisons across the wider Middle East. Sexual abuse of detained women, children and men is rampant in UAE,[21][22] Saudi[23] and Bahraini[24][25] prisons.

United Kingdom[edit]

There were almost 1000 rapes in prisons in England and Wales since 2000. [26]

United States[edit]

In the United States, the overwhelming majority of prison rape cases involve men who are raped by other men.[1][2] This is due in part to the fact that in the United States the vast majority of incarcerated people are men. Sexual contact with inmates by prison staff is illegal, regardless of supposed consent.[27]

Public awareness of common prison rape is a relatively recent development, and estimates of its prevalence have varied widely over the past several decades.[citation needed] In 1974, Carl Weiss and David James Friar wrote that 46 million Americans would one day be incarcerated; of that number, they held that 10 million would be raped.[28]

According to a US Department of Justice report from 2013, an estimated 5.0% of people incarcerated in state and federal prison, and 3.2% of those in jail, reported at least one incident of sexual victimization in the prior 12 months.[29] However, advocates dispute the accuracy of the numbers due to under-reporting of sexual assaults in prison, especially among incarcerated youths.[30]

In terms of individuals' risk over their entire incarceration, estimates from the 1980s and 1990s range widely. A 1992 estimate from the Federal Bureau of Prisons suggested that between 9% and 20% of inmates had been sexually assaulted.[28] Similarly, studies from 1982 and 1996, concluded that the rate was somewhere between 12% and 14%. In New York State maximum security prisons, a 1986 study put the proportion at around 23%.[28] By contrast, Christine Saum's 1994 survey of 101 inmates determined that 5 had been sexually assaulted.[28]

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 was the first United States federal law passed specifically dealing with the sexual assault of prisoners. The bill was signed into law on 4 September 2003.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rosin, Hanna (29 April 2014). "When Men Are Raped". Slate. Archived from the original on 2 October 2018. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b Stemple, Lara; Meyer, Ilan H. (June 2014). "The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions". American Journal of Public Health. 104 (6): e24. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.301946. PMC 4062022. PMID 24825225.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hill, Matthew (2 February 2021). "'Their goal is to destroy everyone': Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape". BBC News. Archived from the original on 14 January 2022. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  4. ^ Brunnstrom, David (4 February 2021). "U.S. 'deeply disturbed' by reports of systematic rape of Muslims in China camps". Reuters. Archived from the original on 3 February 2021. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  5. ^ Ehsan Zarrokh (Ehsan and Gaeini, M. Rahman). "Iranian Legal System and Human Rights Protection", The Islamic Law and Law of the Muslim World e-journal, New York law school 3.2 (2009).
  6. ^ Dehghan, Saeed Kamali. "Iran giving out condoms for criminals to rape us, say jailed activists Archived 2019-02-05 at the Wayback Machine". Published 24 June 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  7. ^ Esfandiari, Golnaz (26 August 2009). "New Prison-Rape Allegations In Iran Bring Practice To Light". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Archived from the original on 26 September 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  8. ^ a b Mackey, Robert (28 August 2009). "Iranians Say Prison Rape Is Not New". The Lede. Archived from the original on 14 June 2018. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  9. ^ Saeed Kamali Dehghan (24 June 2011). "Iran giving out condoms for criminals to rape us, say jailed activists". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 5 February 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  10. ^ "Protesters savagely raped in jail: Iran's Karroubi". 10 August 2009. Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Protest prison chief jailed in alleged rape, abuse scandal". Archived from the original on 29 April 2010.
  12. ^ Slackman, Michael (24 August 2009). "Reformer in Iran Publishes Account of a Prison Rape". New York Times. Archived from the original on 7 March 2018. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Shame On Iran". New York Times. 27 August 2009. Archived from the original on 27 January 2018. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  14. ^ "حزب اعتماد ملی |". Archived from the original on 12 August 2009. Retrieved 23 April 2011.
  15. ^ "Iran and human rights: The crackdown". The Economist. 13 August 2009. Archived from the original on 17 August 2009. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Iran reformer says he wants to present rape evidence". Reuters. 19 August 2009. Archived from the original on 8 March 2021. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  17. ^ dead link
  18. ^ "TECHNIQUES OF ABUSE". Human Rights Watch. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  19. ^ Hughes, Chris (24 July 2016). "Thousands of Turkey coup prisoners 'raped, starved and hogtied'". Daily Mirror. Archived from the original on 14 February 2021. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  20. ^ Duzgun, Meral (10 June 2013). "Turkey: a history of sexual violence". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 31 March 2019. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  21. ^ "Sexual abuses rampant in UAE-controlled prisons in Yemen". Associated Press. 24 April 2021. Archived from the original on 10 June 2021. Retrieved 10 June 2021.
  22. ^ "African migrants detained in Yemen face horrific 'rape, abuse' by UAE-backed forces". 18 April 2018. Archived from the original on 10 June 2021. Retrieved 10 June 2021.
  23. ^ "Saudi women activists detail torture, sexual abuse at court hearing | DW | 28.03.2019". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 7 April 2019. Retrieved 10 June 2021.
  24. ^ "Bahrain: Stop Denying Abuse of Detained Children". 7 June 2021. Archived from the original on 8 June 2021. Retrieved 10 June 2021.
  25. ^ "Bahrain- 20 yr old female raped to death". Archived from the original on 10 June 2021. Retrieved 10 June 2021.
  26. ^ Revealed: almost 1,000 rapes in prisons in England and Wales since 2010
  27. ^ Santi, Alysia. "Preying on Prisoners: When Texas Guards Demand Sex Archived 2018-01-29 at the Wayback Machine". The Texas Tribune. Published 17 June 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  28. ^ a b c d Peek, Christine (2003). "Breaking Out of the Prison Hierarchy: Transgendered Prisoners, Rape, and the Eighth Amendment" (PDF). Santa Clara Law Review. Santa Clara University School of Law. 44 (Entire Paragraph citation): 1211–48. ISSN 0146-0315. OCLC 2842601. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
  29. ^ Beck, Allen J.; et al. (2013). "Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates" (PDF). US Department of Justice. p. 6. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 May 2019. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  30. ^ Swift, James (2013). "Advocates Dispute Agency Finding on Sex Abuse of Juvenile Inmates". Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. p. [1]. Archived from the original on 16 March 2016. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  31. ^ Smith, Brenda V. (Spring 2008). "The Prison Rape Elimination Act: Implementation and Unresolved Issues". Criminal Law Brief. Washington College of Law (WCL Research Paper No. 2008–49). OCLC 63521701. SSRN 1129810.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Gender Violence in Prison & Hyper-Masculinities in the 'Hood: Cycles of Destructive Masculinity". Journal of Law & Policy. Texas Southern University. 37: 89. 2011. SSRN 1966200.
  • Goodmark, Leigh and Flores, Juanita and Goldscheid, Julie and Ritchie, Andrea and SpearIt, Plenary 2 – Redefining Gender Violence—Transcripts from Converge! Reimagining the Movement to End Gender Violence (9 July 2015). University of Miami Race & Social Justice Law Review, Vol. 5, p. 289, 2015. Available at SSRN: